14 Jun Car industry workers in South Australia transitioned into solar jobs
As a result of the Australian Federal Government $20 million Automotive Diversification Program, a South Australian company now has a significant renewable energy export opportunity. Industry Minister Ian McFarlane visited the Heliostat South Australia plant in Beverley in the western suburbs of Adelaide last Wednesday 10 June. Heliostat, owned by Precision Components, is a solar component supplier and they are now employing former automotive industry workers.
During the visit Minister McFarlane stated that the Government moved quickly once the automotive manufacturers announced they would cease manufacturing in Australia by the end of 2017 in order to limit the flow-on effects to parts suppliers by creating a fund that would help both suppliers and workers to transfer skills and equipment to new industries.
The Federal Government provided $1 million to Precision Components to diversify their business into renewable energy using their equipment which was previously dedicated to manufacture automotive parts. The Government expects to invest an additional $1.78 million in Precision Components under the Diversification Program.
Heliostat South Australia licensed CSIRO’s unique technology early last year, and less than 6 months later, it has been deployed in a hybrid solar tower system in Yokohama Japan. Minister McFarlane cited this as a good example of successful transitioning into a new field and transferring skills to benefit a new industry and what can be achieved when science is at the core of industry policy.
The Yokohama project is the second international deployment of CSIRO’s heliostat technology following an installation in Cyprus. The technology uses mirrors to track the sun and reflects the sun towards a receiver which heats a fluid. The fluid drives a turbine to generate electricity. Solar thermal energy is relatively inexpensive and therefore has great potential to be scaled up.