Darryl Bower has carved a niche delivering energy independence to remote communities in Western Australia, and now he is helping educate the next generation of solar installers in Perth.
Darryl Bower founded his electrical and solar business, CDI Energy, in 2009, when he was just 19 years old. The Perth-based company established itself in the PV installation industry and specialises in delivering energy solutions in remote locations across Western Australia.
Additionally, he is giving back to the next generation of solar installers through the Electrical and Communications Association of WA, which is teaming with SkillBuild to deliver renewable energy training at the College of Electrical Training campus at Jandakot, in Perth.
What is your background in the electrical trade?
I started CDI Energy in 2009 and back then there was the carbon emission trading scheme.
We were delivering solar on behalf of steel manufacturer Stratco.
They were installing solar in the residential space to offset their carbon emissions as part of the trading scheme.
When that wound up, we didn’t do a lot of work in the solar space from 2011 to 2015. This was a point when the business shifted to mainly focusing on high-rise construction projects.
What brought you back to clean energy?
In 2015, we decided to return to the renewables space with a core focus on delivering projects in remote areas of Western Australia. From 2016, we have primarily done standalone power systems, microgrids and rooftop solar anywhere across the state.
What is the attraction of remote work?
The industry very quickly became cut-throat and margins eroded, which led to many electricians jumping into renewables so we decided to focus on remote areas as a point of difference. We saw what people were paying for diesel – 45 to 50 cents per kWh for energy – and realised we could deliver larger, more complex projects that provide the client with a similar return to the on-grid space.
Given the size of Western Australia, that must involve plenty of travel?
We run a crew of 22 guys who travel all across the state. Sometimes our projects can be as far as 2500km from our base. Our team developed a product called RSM (Rapid Solar Module), a PV mounting structure that is partially prefabricated in the workshop and then deployed onsite. We are the only part of the country that has Wind Region D so, in 2016, we had to develop a ground mount solar system that is suitable for the conditions.
Is it satisfying delivering projects to remote communities to give them energy independence?
Very much so. We arrive onsite and there is a diesel generator running 24/7, but you leave having provided a solution that can provide up to 80 per cent renewable penetration. That is very good to be involved in.
Are you active in the mining industry?
A lot of our current focus is on providing relocatable hybrid solutions to the mining industry. We build Hybrid Skin, a 20-foot or 40-foot container base with foldout wings that open up, onboard energy storage and a backup diesel generator.
What major changes have you seen in the clean energy industry?
Definitely the technology around energy storage and usability of adapting PV storage into a system. Think back 10 to 15 years, there were not many hardware options in the off-grid space. You were limited to about 30kW. Now we do off-grid up to 1MW and a couple of megawatt hours. The tech available is far better, and PV modules themselves, with the amount of power we can generate, reduce overall carbon footprints.
What is one of your most noteworthy projects?
In 2019, we did the Horizon Power Onslow DER [distributed energy resource] project with a company called Mechanical Project Services [MPS]. At the time, it was the largest microgrid in the world to run on 100 per cent renewables, with 2.7MW of PV and just under one megawatt hour of PV storage. We installed about 240 solar systems across every house in Onslow, WA. It all became a renewable microgrid solution. That’s where we first got to trial our RSM solution in Wind Region D.
What is your involvement with the Electrical and Communications Association of WA?
I’m a big advocate for training and am the vice-president of the ECA, where I have sat on the board for six years. We offer a standalone power system training course inhouse but have been struggling to find lecturers. I reached out to SkillBuild to ask if they would deliver the course and help train the industry in WA. I did my solar ticket through SkillBuild in 2014 and 2015. These courses are ongoing until January 2024.
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