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Brisbane company goes from old squash court to helping save Barrier Reef

Business

A quest to save the Great Barrier Reef from the impacts of climate change has led to an invention that could dramatically change Australia’s energy industry.

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A company currently run out of a converted squash court and petrol station at Enoggera, eleXsys Energy, has developed what it claims is a unique voltage regulator that would effectively overturn major barriers in the electricity grid, known as curtailment, and allow for the development of microgrids and a two-way grid.

The technology is expected to be trialled soon in residential areas which, if successful, would mean the rooftop solar doesn’t have to be dialled down or switched off when too much is fed into the grid.

The company is planning an initial public offering later this year and has already started expanding internationally after raising about $25 million over the past eight years from its initial investors and founders Richard Romanowski and former Energex executive Dr Bevan Holcombe. That included about $9 million in a recent series A funding round.

“That is allowing us to start our global expansion,’’ Romanowski, who is also executive director, said of the recent funding.

“What we are trying to do is decarbonise the suburbs all around the world.

“The business side of that is to get first-mover advantage. The investors get that.

“Bevan and I when we sat down, before we wrote the first cheque, we asked why do we want to do this? We want to leave a legacy and to be able to say to our grandkids we tried to save the world.

“Helping save the Great Barrier Reef was our mantra.

“We have offices now in London, Singapore, Canada and the US. This is technology built in backyard Enoggera that’s going global.’’

It already has 55 staff and expects to double that next year when it starts manufacturing between 3000 and 4000 of the regulator units, but most of the business is sold under licence as software as a service (SAAS).

Its prize development has been a major solar installation in Adelaide that has turned an Ikea store into a 5 megawatt power station and battery in an $8 million scheme that involved QSuper’s Epic Energy.

The benefits are not just the extra electricity. Under the project, the solar infrastructure is owned by QSuper.

“We are talking an $8 million project for Ikea. There has been a lot of financial work done on this and 20-year income stream has to be secure and that’s what eleXsys does. It makes it a bankable project and it means we can do it on the roof of every warehouse in Australia.

“It’s not owned by Ikea, it’s effectively owned by QSuper. It owns and operates the solar power plant and they sell energy to Ikea with a 25-30 per cent reduction on their energy costs. The landlord gets rent for the use of the roof and the energy going into the grid provides and income and it supports the grid.

“We are moving the solar farms from the bush to the suburbs.’’

Romanowski said rooftop solar once promised a three-year payback which then expanded to five or six years and was likely to move our further to nine years.

“There is too much solar and there is too much voltage and then it impacts on the inverter and it dials down or shuts down and it does that all day and they are not sending energy into the grid.

“AEMO and Energy Qld are saying they are going to put in place (rules) where we can tell you to shut your solar off because there is a problem with the grid. That’s real today, that’s what is happening.’’

He said one of the eleXsys unit for every 100 residential homes would fix the congestion issue.

The company, which trades as Planet Ark Power, has former Bligh Government Minister Stephen Robertson on board as its director of stakeholder engagement.

 

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