From Holdens to home batteries: sonnen helps recharge workforce

Adam Williams began his first full-time job as an apprentice toolmaker at Holden’s Elizabeth factory at the age of 19. Fast forward more than two decades and instead of cars coming off the production line it’s home battery systems.

After almost two decades working at Holden in various roles including leadership and management positions, Adam is still in the manufacturing game and is back under the same roof of the historic car-making site.

He now leads manufacturing operations at sonnen, a global home battery giant that has set up in the old Holden factory, now rebadged as Lionsgate Business Park and home to a small handful of other hi-tech manufacturing businesses.

“Ironically, my very first day at Holden was in this building that sonnen is setting up in,” says Adam, Brand South Australia’s latest I Choose SA ambassador for the trade and investment sector.

“Holden was a big part of my life, it taught me a lot and gave me a big insight into business, lead processes, safety and culture, which are all invaluable to manufacturing outside of auto.”

sonnen Australia’s manufacturing manager Adam Williams is Brand South Australia’s latest I Choose SA ambassador. Photo by JKTP.

The former manufacturing plant in Adelaide’s north has remained relatively disused since the last of Holden’s Elizabeth employees officially clocked off for the last time in November 2017, closing a near-century old chapter of Australian car-making history.

But investment by Melbourne-based Pelligra Group in the site has seen advanced manufacturing tenants including sonnen move in and establish presences here in SA.

Founded in Germany in 2010, sonnen produces the sonnenBatterie, a hi-tech energy system that stores and adjusts household usage of solar power.

All but two of the current 50 employees at sonnen’s Australian HQ are ex-Holden workers, and Adam says their auto-manufacturing skills have been transferrable into the new industry.

“When you’ve been doing something for so long, you never quite know if your skills will be relevant in a different industry, but I quickly found the philosophies and mentality around manufacturing and business were very transferrable,” he says.

“Our employees bring many skills in terms of understanding continuous improvement, they understand safety, advanced manufacturing and lean manufacturing.”

The first employees at sonnen’s Adelaide factory when it opened in 2018.

Adam left Holden in 2015, two years after General Motors officially announced it would eventually close the Elizabeth plant. He went on to spend three years at medical x-ray manufacturer and start-up Micro X based at the Tonsley Innovation District, another old car factory once home to Mitsubishi.

Upon hearing the news of sonnen’s plans to invest in SA, Adam researched the home battery maker and was drawn to the opportunity to be a part of a global company with high manufacturing volumes of about 10,000 home battery systems a year.

“To see this site reborn is really exciting, it’s going to be good for the state and good for the northern area of Adelaide,” he says.

“I love manufacturing and the philosophy behind it, what it brings to the state and the economy. Even though I left Holden, it’s an industry I want to stay in.”

The sonnenBatteries work by controlling how the battery stores and releases solar power into the home. The system can isolate itself from the electricity grid during blackouts, allowing a household to use its own stored energy until the power comes back on.

In Germany, thousands of homes are already connected to a ‘virtual power plant’ – a sonnenCommunity – where power is shared between households, resulting in no need for a conventional energy provider.

Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan, left, and Premier Steven Marshall congratulate Sonnen CEO Christoph Ostermann at the sonnen launch in Adelaide in 2018.

“That is the goal here as well,” Adam says. “The more people we have on batteries, the less demand on the grid.”

sonnen was the first vendor to be accredited to SA’s Home Battery Scheme, a $100 million government initiative allowing households to install solar panels and a storage battery at a reduced cost.

But it wasn’t the scheme that motivated sonnen to set up in SA, says head of Asia Pacific and managing director of sonnen Australia Nathan Dunn, but rather the state’s advanced manufacturing capabilities.

“The ready pool of talent in SA will allow us to tap into future demand for sonnenBatteries and allow us to scale our operations within SA,”  Nathan says.

“Another reason we have chosen to establish a presence in SA is the significant local ecosystem of suppliers that we can partner with to acquire components needed for the manufacturing of sonnenBatteries locally.

“Our goal is to ultimately increase the level of Australian sourced components to build a battery that is fully made in SA.”

Nathan says the goal is to produce sonnenBatteries to meet the needs of Australian customers before the company looks towards export opportunities into New Zealand, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia.

Read more:

· German battery giant to create 430 manufacturing jobs for SA

· Why energy giant sonnen chose to invest in SA

Industry in focus: Trade and Investment

Throughout the months of January and February, the state’s trade and investment industry will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia is in a prime position for trade and investment opportunities as we have a 24-hour connection to international markets and a prime reputation for our premium products and services.  Read more trade and investment stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Why energy giant Sonnen chose to invest in SA

Global energy storage giant Sonnen is producing its first Australian assembled batteries at the former Holden factory in Elizabeth as its workforce builds to some 150 within months.

Operations and finance managing director Marc Sheldon believes South Australia is the ideal place for the German-headquartered company to work toward producing 10,000 batteries a year to meet demand in Australia and the neighbouring Asia Pacific region.

“The energy market as it exists in SA is unique, it is more advanced than any OECD country in its transition to renewable energy,” Marc says.

This, he says, gives the Sonnen company the opportunity to address challenges and be prepared for a market it expects to develop rapidly throughout the region in the next few years.

It also means Sonnen has established itself in a state where it has access to highly skilled workers and companies with a “can do” attitude.

Sonnen’s operations and finance managing director Marc Sheldon, left, Sonnen CEO Christoph Ostermann and managing director for Australia and Asia Pacific Nathan Dunn.

Marc says more than 50 local employees are already on the production line and almost all of them are ex-Holden staff – while another more than 100 are working as installers through the supply chain.

The company is well on the way to creating about 430 new jobs in the state within 18 months, he says, as outlined when the new Liberal State Government announced earlier this year that Sonnen would be moving into the repurposed Holden factory.

“What we do is advanced manufacturing in the purest sense, we leverage the innate capabilities in the market itself,” Marc says.

“We’ve indicated before that one of the key challenges for us when we are choosing a site is around availability of talent and availability of staff to fill those roles, what we’ve now really found is lots of well educated, well trained staff.”

Sonnen is supporting the new $100 million Home Battery Scheme announced by the State Government in September that provides a subsidy of up to $6000 per household to install home battery systems.

From October, 40,000 South Australian households have had access to the scheme designed to reduce electricity costs and demand on the network, in turn delivering lower power prices for all South Australians.

Sonnen CEO Christoph Ostermann, far left, shows Premier Steven Marshall, and Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan, far right, Sonnen systems at the company’s official launch in SA.

The $100 million in State Government subsidies was also matched with $100 million in finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to provide low-interest loans for the balance of the battery and new solar if required.

When the scheme was announced, Premier Steven Marshall said priority was being given to qualified system providers who commit to installing approved battery systems that are manufactured or assembled in SA.

Sonnen was the first provider to be afforded the nine-week priority period – meaning their products were exclusively available to households – with additional brands available after the nine-week period.

The company describes its world-leading sonnenBatterie as a high-tech energy storage system that automatically adjusts the energy usage in a household in combination with solar panels to provide clean, renewable energy.

“There’s a reason why we’re going to SA, we’re quite impressed with what the government has been able to put together since its election and the feeling we’ve received from people in SA is really good, there’s a can-do attitude,” Marc says.

“Businesses we meet with say we can do that right now or let’s sit down and see how we can make that happen … that makes us quite happy looking at the future.”

Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan, left, and Premier Steven Marshall congratulate Sonnen CEO Christoph Ostermann, on the company’s establishment in Adelaide.

Sonnen will use Adelaide as its Australian headquarters and shipping centre for the Asian region, and Marc says the first SA assembled batteries to be exported will head to New Zealand in January.

The company aims to assemble and manufacture 50,000 energy storage systems at the site over the next five years, after its plans to establish the battery production plant in Adelaide were initially announced in February 2018.

Manufacturing costs are also now proving to be positive from the initial cost projected in pre-planning as Marc says there already had been an increase in productivity per head by 30% as the process was streamlined.

Sonnen has also appointed a new Australian managing director Nathan Dunn to support growth with Marc, who has worked for Sonnen for the past three years, saying there was much potential in SA.

“I think in South Australia everything is moving in the right direction and a lot of very interesting developments are happening right now that will benefit the state,” he adds.

Header image: The Sonnen Adelaide team. Photo by Danielle Marie.

Industry in focus: Trade and Investment

Throughout the months of January and February, the state’s trade and investment industry will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia is in a prime position for trade and investment opportunities as we have a 24-hour connection to international markets and a prime reputation for our premium products and services.  Read more trade and investment stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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More jobs as Canadian battery maker flicks the switch in SA

Up to 200 new jobs will be created over the next three years as a Canadian energy storage firms invests in South Australia’s booming battery sector.

Eguana Technologies will invest $12 million in assembling and manufacturing its cutting edge Evolve home energy storage system in Adelaide.

The global innovator is the latest company to invest in the state’s battery sector, with German energy storage giant Sonnen and Chinese battery manufacturer Alpha-ESS also establishing an SA presence.

The three companies are approved suppliers under the state’s Home Battery Scheme that allows 40,000 households to access up to $6000 in subsidies and low-interest loans to pay for the installation of home batteries and solar.

Until December 31, households can purchase subsidised batteries from Sonnen, Alpha-ESS or Eguana Technologies. Under an agreement with the State Government, the priority period awards system providers who install batteries manufactured or assembled here in SA.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment David Ridgway says he’s pleased to welcome Eguana as the latest international company to invest in SA and commit to manufacturing and assembling their batteries in Adelaide.

“Based in Calgary, Eguana Technologies designs and manufactures high performance residential and commercial storage systems, so to be able to bring their skills and technology to SA is a significant win,” he says.

“Since we announced the Home Battery Scheme, we’ve had fantastic global leaders such as Eguana knocking on our door to be a part of the largest rollout of home batteries in the world.”

Eguana has 20 years of experience in delivering grid edge power electronics for fuel cells, photovoltaics and batteries from its manufacturing facilities in Europe and North America.

Eguana Technologies chief technology officer Brent Harris says the announcement confirms SA as a world leader in the use of solar and battery technology.

“The requirement for smart batteries is the first of its kind and the Evolve product was designed to support sophisticated programs that go beyond basic backup power and reducing consumption,” he says.

“We have already begun establishing our manufacturing capabilities in SA and look forward to providing choice to SA energy storage customers.”

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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German battery giant to create 430 manufacturing jobs for SA

A German energy storage giant has chosen the former Holden car factory in Adelaide’s northern suburbs as the centre of its Australian operations.

Sonnen will assemble and manufacture 50,000 energy storage systems at the site over the next five years, creating about 430 manufacturing and installation jobs for South Australia.

The company’s plans to establish a battery production plant in Adelaide were initially announced in February 2018, when the location was still under consideration.

Sonnen will set up its Australian headquarters at the former Holden manufacturing plant and begin assembling its world-leading home battery technology.

Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister David Ridgway says the new manufacturing centre will become sonnen’s central shipping facility for Australia and the Asia and South Pacific region.

“The State Liberal Government is delighted that sonnen has decided to make Adelaide the centre of its Australian operations and the jobs that will deliver for South Australians,” he says.

“Manufacturing has been a key foundation of SA’s economy for decades and this is set to continue on the back of leading companies like sonnen establishing an advanced manufacturing presence in our state.”

The State Government says the rollout of the battery systems combined with rooftop solar is expected to “provide significant savings to household electricity bills”.

The sonnen news follows the State Government’s announcement of its $100m Home Battery Scheme.

The scheme is set to provide 40,000 SA households with access to grants up to $6000 to pay for the installation of home battery systems.

Sonnen CEO Christoph Ostermann says SA has a new reputation for being the centre of energy policy in Australia.

“We are very excited to begin manufacturing in SA for the Australian and export markets and anticipate Australia will become the world’s number one market for energy storage systems,” he says.

Sonnen runs a virtual power plant in Germany, where thousands of households are connected with a photovoltaic system (PV) and storage system, forming the decentralised sonnenCommunity.

“As the sonnenBatterie can charge and discharge up to three times a day, it is ideal once battery numbers reach a certain level, to form a virtual power plant capable of supplying energy to the grid on days of high demand,” Christoph says.

“50,000 storage systems will be able to draw down energy stored in the batteries to supply up to 150 megawatts of electricity to the grid, which is the equivalent of a gas-fired peaking power station.”

Header image: sonnen, Facebook.

I Choose SA for Advanced Manufacturing stories are made possible by City of Salisbury:

Industry in focus: Advanced Manufacturing

Throughout the month of September, the state’s advanced manufacturing industry will be under the magnifying glass as part of I Choose SA.

As SA transforms away from traditional manufacturing processes, innovative and sophisticated products and services are taking their place, creating new jobs and investment opportunities for the state. Read more stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Sanjeev Gupta announces Whyalla solar farm the size of 550 Adelaide Ovals

British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta has announced plans for a solar farm covering an area the size of 550 Adelaide Ovals as part of his $US1 billion renewable energy plan for the Upper Spencer Gulf.

SIMEC ZEN Energy – part of Mr Gupta’s GFG Alliance – announced the plans for one of Australia’s largest solar farms alongside South Australian Premier Steven Marshall and local Mayor Lyn Breuer in Whyalla on August 15.

The Cultana Solar Farm is the first project to be unveiled as part of Mr Gupta’s landmark $US1 billion, one gigabit dispatchable renewable energy program.

The Cultana solar project will feature 780,000 solar panels generating 600GWh of energy per year, enough to power 96,000 homes, and according to Mr Gupta will help bring down energy prices.

“Today’s event is symbolic of our desire to develop and invest in new-generation energy assets that will bring down Australia’s electricity prices to competitive levels again, as well as our commitment to local and regional Australia,” he says.

“In particular, this signals the beginning of our journey with a number of stakeholders to not only transform GFG’s operations in Whyalla, but also further enhance the appeal of this great city.”

In 2017, Mr Gupta’s company GFG Alliance bought the Whyalla steelworks and iron ore mines, saving thousands of local steel industry jobs.

The Cultana Solar Farm will generate 350 jobs during construction and 10 ongoing operation and maintenance positions.

Development approval is expected later this year before works begin in the first quarter of 2019.

Mr Gupta says Cultana, along with SIMEC ZEN’s second solar project to be built nearby, will become one of the largest solar farms in the country.

He says the renewable energy projects will not only improve reliability and drop energy costs for his own operations, but will provide competitive sources of power for other commercial and industrial users.

Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer says the city’s council is keen to partner with GFG Alliance in coming decades, including leasing a portion of land for the Cultana project.

She says the solar project signalled to the nation that Whyalla is open for business.

SIMEC ZEN Energy is pursuing a number of other renewable energy projects in the region, including cogeneration at GFG’s Whyalla Primary Steel plant using waste gas, the world’s largest lithium-ion battery and pumped hydro projects at GFG’s Middleback Ranges mining operations.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Solar River Project to create hundreds of jobs for Goyder region

Hundreds of South Australian jobs will be created and thousands of homes powered with the construction of a $450m solar power project near Robertstown in the Mid North.

Stage one construction of one of the state’s largest solar power ventures – Solar River Project – will begin in 2019 featuring a 200mW solar photovoltaic (PV) array and 120mW battery.

The first stage also includes a 35km-long transmission line to the national grid, delivering power to at least 90,000 Australian homes.

The man behind the project is passionate South Australian Jason May and business partner Richard Winter, who is a lawyer based in Perth.

Jason says Solar River Project will help “disrupt” the energy sector by delivering cheaper electricity and push SA’s renewable energy status.

Managing director Jason May.

“It’s certainly the start of something very big in the energy sector for SA,” he says.

“We’ve been chipping away at it, photovoltaics have been a little bit expensive but they’re coming down. There is a boom in the energy sector at the moment.”

Jason says about 350 jobs will be created during the two years of construction, including a further 20-50 permanent positions throughout the 25-year life of the facility, by way of engineering roles and project managers.

“The contractor has agreed to source as much of that (construction jobs) locally as they can, so that means everything from labourers to plant operators will come from that whole region,” he says.

Stage two construction will commence in the fourth quarter of 2019 and will include an additional 200mW with a 150mWh battery.

Jason says the State Government’s proposed electricity interconnector with NSW could unlock potential for future stages of Solar River to supply power to 450,000 homes across the country.

“That (interconnector) is very exciting for the industry, but also the region because it unlocks 1200mW of connection … billions of dollars’ worth of investment will go ahead as a result of that interconnector,” he says.

Jason has more than 35 years working in the energy sector, both nationally and internationally.

The layout of the solar PV array.

He says the idea for a renewables project had been on his mind since 2002, a time when he was working as a senior project manager at ElectraNet.

Jason met Richard Winter in Sydney about a decade ago when the pair was working on renewable projects at bank Investec.

They became mates, eventually travelling to the Mid North and following Goyder’s Line until they found the perfect location for a solar farm that was close to the national grid.

Solar River Project is being run out of the University of Adelaide’s ThincLab on North Terrace by a team of 40 people including university graduates.

Jason says price points on photovoltaics and large battery systems have dropped dramatically in the past two years, making large scale solar projects more feasible.

“When you think what resources does SA have … we have tonnes of solar and tonnes of wind, let’s build plants here that harness that energy, connect to the grid and sell that to the eastern seaboard,” he says.

Solar River Project is privately funded through a mix of national and international investment and has received state development approval and backing from the Goyder Council.

A smoking ceremony was held on the Solar River site in January 2018. The solar project developers have collaborated with local Indigenous groups.

Jason has also worked closely with local Indigenous groups, establishing a Ngadjuri National Aboriginal Corporation Heritage Agreement and a regional heritage fund with the Goyder Council.

Local flora and fauna protection programs will also go ahead, as will sponsorship of local sporting teams and facilities.

The May family name is well-known in SA, with Jason’s forebears Frederick and Alfred May founding engineering and manufacturing firm May Brothers & Co in Gawler in 1885.

Frederick is remembered as a “mechanical genius” and one of Australia’s greatest engineers, with a plaque installed in his honour on North Terrace in Adelaide.

Jason went on to reinstate the May Brothers name and has since led a number of energy projects.

He says SA’s big renewable ventures such as Tesla’s big battery in the Mid North has put the global spotlight on the state.

“SA is the far most progressive out of all the states when you look at all the statistics coming out of AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator),” he says.

“Let’s step it up and take it to the next level.”

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Zero-emission car service rolling out in SA

South Australia’s first zero-emission car service is rolling out across Adelaide, in support of the city council’s push for the southern capital to become carbon neutral.

The chauffeur service myCar, based at Tonsley Innovation District, aims to help reduce transport emissions and promote electric vehicle technology.

myCar founder and director Mark Harrington says the zero-emission vehicle service began in 2017 with a fleet of luxury hybrid Lexus and Mercedes cars, as well as electric Tesla vehicles.

However, he says the company is now shifting towards adding less expensive car brands to its fleet, including the Mitsubishi Outlander, a hybrid vehicle that services “at taxi prices”.

myCar still uses its luxury Tesla vehicles the ‘Model S’ and ‘ Model X’, which have a range of about 400km before running flat.

Mark says myCar will soon release new software, including an app, allowing passengers to choose their preferred type of vehicle and their favourite driver.

myCar founder and director Mark Harrington is the brains behind SA’s first zero-emission car service.

“Not only are we the first zero-emission car service in SA, but we are the only,” he says.

“It’s new technology like this that will enable drivers to become your affordable personal concierge on wheels so the experience feels like being in your own fancy car, only better.”

Mark says he envisages the app to also include information on public transport services such as trains and buses, and also flights.

“I can imagine a day where people don’t own their own cars at all, but it’s all about ride sharing and using transport through an app,” he says.

He can also see the day when autonomous vehicles in SA eventually become less of a novelty and more of a reality.

“At myCar we’re already running Teslas in auto pilot mode (with backup drivers of course), but I think that we’ll still have drivers for a while,” Mark says.

“For now, I expect that the sharing economy and autonomous driving will make it less important for more people to own their own vehicle.”

Mark has taken inspiration from successful trials in Holland and is now collaborating with Flinders University and local business Gelco to export electricity from car batteries to power households.

“Collaboration in business will enable us to realise our potential and make Adelaide the world’s first carbon neutral city,” he says.

“At myCar we’re not just using the safest electric cars on the road, we’re supporting SA’s transition to sustainable energy by investing in electric and autonomous vehicle research.”

One of myCar’s Tesla vehicles.

myCar is a founding partner of Carbon Neutral Adelaide, an Adelaide City Council driven ambition to make the southern capital the world’s first carbon neutral city.

Carbon Neutral Adelaide aims to increase the proportion of hybrid and electric vehicle registrations to 15% by 2021.

Emissions from transport contribute to 35% of Adelaide’s total emissions with 90% of that coming from private passenger cars, according to the Adelaide City Council.

The myCar fleet is charged on electric car charging infrastructure set up across the state including regional areas and at locations across the city.

Mark grew up in the Adelaide Hills, becoming a global finance advisor overseas before moving home to run his own Adelaide-based firm, Infrastructure Finance Australia.

His decision to branch out into the transport industry carried on his family’s history in personalised chauffeur services, with his grandfather Jack Harrington running a horse-drawn carriage business in the Hills for many years.

Adelaide’s movement in the renewable energy space plus its strong entrepreneurial ecosystem made the perfect launchpad for myCar, Mark says.

“There is a great entrepreneurial spirit in Adelaide and myCar is proud to be part of this growing, dynamic business community,” he adds.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Energy and mining sector sparks growth for Energy LogistiX

The growth of South Australia’s mining and energy sector has prompted a local freight and transport business to plan towards establishing a base in the Upper Spencer Gulf.

Family owned and operated Energy LogistiX, which specialises in project transport and logistics solutions and is based near the Port of Adelaide, is hoping to expand its operations and open a depot in Whyalla or Port Augusta in the next 12 months.

Managing director Shaun Williamson says SA’s flourishing mining and energy sector – buoyed by various multimillion dollar investments in the state’s Far North – has been a “game-changer” for his small team of 38 employees.

Shaun says Energy LogistiX will open a depot in the Upper Spencer Gulf region within the next year to cater for an increasing demand from clients based in Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla.

Energy LogistiX managing director Shaun Williamson.

There are more than a dozen resources and renewable energy investment projects underway in the Upper Spencer Gulf including the Bungala solar power plant near Port Augusta and a world first solar powered tomato farm developed by Sundrop Farms.

“Every year we have been growing as a business by 30-50% year on year,” Shaun says.

“For us, the energy and mining sector has made a substantial difference … it’s a big deal for little companies like ours.”

Energy LogistiX’s fleet of rigids, semi-trailers and road trains are used to haul heavy equipment and other materials to service primarily the mining, oil and gas sector.

Shaun says the business has a strong focus on delivering “time critical” services, using smart integrated monitoring technology to track freight throughout its journey.

The technology also allows communication between fleet operators and clients, to deliver a “premium service that is unmatched in this space of project transport and logistics solutions”.

The smart integrated monitoring technology allows Energy LogistiX to keep track of freight in real time.

Energy LogistiX transports materials and heavy machinery including dangerous goods, cranes, drill casings, mining equipment, oil and gas materials and rigs, concrete trucks and large loaders.

Many of its clients are some of the biggest players in the state’s mining and energy sector, including BHP Billiton at Olympic Dam, one of the world’s biggest copper, gold and uranium mines, and Santos for its Port Bonython and Moomba operations.

For more than two years, Energy LogistiX has been working with mining company CU River, to iron ore mine, Cairn Hill, 50km south of Coober Pedy in the state’s Far North.

It has also transported heavy mining equipment, such as dump trucks, water trucks, cranes, concrete trucks and large loaders to Cairn Hill, one of the new mining projects on the horizon.

Shaun says the small family business is also hoping to secure work in the near future with OZ Minerals at its Carrapateena operation – Australia’s largest undeveloped copper deposit.

He says running a small business and being a part of the supply chain for one of the state’s largest industries often comes with its challenges.

“It’s difficult because our competitors are multinational corporations,” Shaun says.

“But we’re SA owned and operated, so give us a shot and keep the business within our state, just as we choose to support other family owned and operated businesses in SA.

“Keeping it local is key to our future and success.

“We’re big enough and capable enough to take on these multimillion dollar contracts and we will always deliver on our promise.”

Energy LogistiX started from humble beginnings – sprouting from a small-time operation run out of the Williamson family’s small unit in Port Adelaide.

That was in 2010 and eight years on it’s now based at a 28,000m2 office and depot facility near the Osborne Naval Shipbuilding Precinct.

Shaun’s mother Jo Williamson co-founded the business and has a strong background in working in the oil and gas sector.

Shaun, a professional motocross and supercross racer, has a background also working on oil rigs.

“We’re both against the grain; Mum is a female in a male dominated industry and we started with nothing,” he says.

“Now we’re working for our blue chip clients delivering our vision of being the best at what we do day in day out.”

Photos by 57 Films.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Building a bright future in Upper Spencer Gulf

When British industrialist Sanjeev Gupta signed a deal to turn around the fortunes of Whyalla and its struggling steelworks, he not only saved thousands of jobs but also injected an extraordinary boost of confidence into the region.

His widespread investment has Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer brimming with optimism for the state’s Upper Spencer Gulf and Business SA’s chief executive Nigel McBride relishing a wider lift in the economy.

Mr Gupta’s GFG Alliance bought the town’s ailing steelworks from Arrium when it was in administration with some 6000 jobs under threat.

“We were in a really, really bad patch and it seemed like we were in a situation we weren’t going to get out of, when Mr Gupta came along and GFG it was such a blessed relief,” Mrs Breuer says.

Now she says the plans just keep getting better with announcements that the GFG Liberty OneSteel plant will double production and create a greener business model with more recycled steel and a focus on clean energy.

Whyalla Mayor Lyn Breuer speaks at a handover ceremony on the day GFG Alliance took over the steelworks. Photo by Jon Ortlieb.

Mr Gupta wants to build solar farms along with the country’s largest lithium ion battery and to eventually also develop new housing in Whyalla.

Contracts are being signed to upgrade the plant and Mrs Breuer says investigations are underway to expand the Whyalla port while GFG Alliance is taking on a majority stake in ZEN Energy to realise its national energy ambitions.

“People understand in the next 12 months we’ll see a real turn around in our town, we are looking toward to a more positive future than we ever have before,” Mrs Breuer says.

This key investment comes amid remarkable growth, particularly in renewable energy, in the region.

There are some 13 new investment projects underway, among them the Bungala solar power plant near Port Augusta being under construction, while the much-lauded concentrated solar thermal plant owned by Sundrop Farms is already running a hydroponic greenhouse to grow tomatoes.

Mayors from Port Augusta, Whyalla and Port Pirie met on Friday last week to discuss how their councils can help ensure there will be enough skilled workers to fill the expected rapid rise in job openings.

Mrs Breuer says Mr Gupta has certainly piqued the interest of other global investors.

An aerial view of the Whyalla steelworks. Photo by Jon Ortlieb.

Whyalla council officers were invited to China for meetings with two more companies keen on investing.

While in January, Becker Helicopters announced it was moving some 70 staff and its training operation from Queensland to the Upper Spencer Gulf city.

The state’s Industry and Skills Minister David Pisoni also reports a renewed optimism in the region more than 300km from Adelaide after visiting in June and July to talk with industry and small business people.

“The significant, and very much welcome, investment by Gupta Family Group in Whyalla is already having huge flow-on effects within the local community and beyond,” Mr Pisoni said.

“Employers and business have been given renewed confidence, the region is also attracting recognition and new investment from around the globe.”

The GFG Alliance itself is a global group of energy, mining, metals, engineering and financial services businesses, headquartered in London, with additional hubs in Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney and a presence in around 30 countries worldwide.

Photo courtesy of Liberty OneSteel.

Business SA chief executive Nigel McBride says the state has attracted vital intelligent capital, capital that is leading to “global know how” around lowering material costs, greater energy efficiency and new products.

“GFG is bringing a global supply chain to Whyalla so we are part of something much bigger ….. and it’s not just people working directly in the steelworks that benefit, it’s also small businesses who service it and their employees.”

He believes the investment has given a huge boost to business confidence in regional SA at a time when the state’s job figures are rising.

Even the Federal Government is sending in cash, announcing funding of $19.4m for eight projects in the region during April that it hoped would create more than 500 new jobs.

The Upper Spencer Gulf was the only SA region, and one of only 10 nationally, to get pilot funding under the national $222m regional jobs and investment package.

The 1200 tonne crane German-made Liebherr all terrain crane will be used to build and maintain wind towers.

Max Cranes in Whyalla won $4.7m funding toward a $12m telescopic mobile crane – the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere – used to build and maintain wind towers.

While Whyalla’s Ice Engineering and Construction was awarded half the $10m cost of creating a hub for three existing Whyalla-based heavy engineering and manufacturing companies.

“It’s an extraordinary investment strategy in a range of complementary industries and resources that will be truly transformational in regional SA and across our state,” Mr McBride adds.

Header photo is courtesy of Liberty OneSteel.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Sky is the limit for renewables outfit ZEN Energy

Local solar designer Josh Buckton knows too well that South Australia is on the cusp of a renewables revolution.

As one of clean energy company ZEN Energy’s solar designers, the young electrician-by-trade has made a career out of Earth’s truest renewable resource – the sun.

Josh’s job is to liaise with ZEN team members on the design, layout, installation and pricing of residential and commercial solar systems.

“I undertake a complete design and review of everything from residential to large-scale multi-megawatt rooftop solar projects, attend site inspections and ensure everything is installed to the correct standards,” he says.

“We are installing a large amount of solar systems every week … with a growing number of them for business and industry, which is picking up at a rapid rate.”

ZEN Energy’s Josh Buckton designs everything from residential to large-scale multi-megawatt rooftop solar projects.

According to the Climate Council, 31% of SA households have adopted solar technology.

Solar and wind power are the main contributors to renewable energy generation, with SA now holding a 53% share in renewable electricity.

Josh’s solar story began with a four-year electrical apprenticeship and various stints across Adelaide, including installing light controls in the world-class new Royal Adelaide Hospital.

But with renewable energy beginning to deliver an explosion of jobs and a boost in economic prosperity, he noticed all signs were pointing towards a career in solar design.

“We have plenty of opportunities here … the renewable energy sector has gone pretty crazy and SA is becoming one of the world leaders in sustainable energy solutions,” he says.

Josh has been a part of the ZEN Energy squad since July 2017 and is based at the ZEN Energy headquarters in the Sustainable Industries Education Centre at Tonsley.

This year has provided much inspiration for employees at ZEN – SA’s fastest growing company and a world leader in renewable energy and storage solutions.

In September 2017, ZEN made headlines when British billionaire and Whyalla steelworks saviour Sanjeev Gupta bought a majority stake in the company.

The result was joint venture SIMEC ZEN Energy, which will improve energy security and drop power prices for both the steelworks and other large energy users in SA.

SIMEC ZEN Energy will supply the State Government with 80% of its electricity needs in 2018, rising to 100% of its needs in 2019.

ZEN Energy is also behind a $1 billion solar, battery, pumped hydro and demand management project, totalling over one gigawatt of generation.

It’s tipped to be the largest solar and power storage investment in the country.

Josh says the uptake of renewable energy is not only evident in these economy-driving projects, but at all levels.

He says more businesses are adopting solar technology with an increased interest in smart energy storage.

ZEN’s battery storage solutions include grid connect systems (connected to the electricity grid) in addition to standalone systems that will “take you off-grid completely”.

A typical solar system involves photovoltaic (PV) panels mounted to a roof, and an inverter that converts direct current electricity into alternating current power.

Power not used in the home or business is exported to the electricity grid, earning the owner a small credit from their electricity retailer.

Systems with battery storage involve the unused solar energy being stored for later use when the sun is not shining, or for businesses to decrease their demand charges through smart energy management.

With SA expected to reach a 50% renewable energy target by 2025 and a zero net emissions target by 2050, green energy solutions are tipped to rejuvenate jobs and bring back cash flow into regional SA.

ZEN Energy founder Richard Turner.

ZEN Energy founder Richard Turner told Brand South Australia’s recent I Choose SA for Industry event that all eyes are on SA’s renewable sector.

“This is what we’re calling the new industrial revolution,” he says.

“This is where the long term, sustainable jobs are going to come from.

“When we start harnessing what is the best renewable energy resource in the world, the shift in prosperity that is going to gravitate to this state will stun us all.”