As renewable energy evolves, a desire to continue learning keeps Scott Kerr’s business, SKE Electric, moving forward, writes Gavin Dennett.

Qualified electrician and accredited solar installer Scott Kerr has a thirst for knowledge. It is this eagerness to expand his know-how and skill set that is helping drive forward his NSW business, SKE Electric, in Helensburgh, south of Sydney. With rapid technological progression in the renewable energy space, Scott and his electrical team are keeping pace.

What is your professional background?

I’m an electrician who has been qualified for 12 years, and self-employed for seven years. I own SKE Electric, a small company with three electricians and an apprentice. I signed up for accredited solar training 18 months ago and started doing installs about six months ago.

What prompted you to become accredited?

I was more interested in batteries and storage, but I had to do solar first. However, since I did solar training I have really enjoyed it and want to transition my electrical business into renewables. I also have the grid-connect battery accreditation and have just started my off-grid standalone accreditation. I’m doing the off-grid out of interest more than anything as there isn’t huge demand for it in Helensburgh, but it is all related.

What is the solar demand in Helensburgh?

I’ve done about 30 installs to date and have been trying to do different types and brands, learn more and challenge myself and the team such as doing optimised systems, microinverters and I’m currently quoting a couple of bigger jobs above 30KW, with a few more elements involved. It’s all a learning curve, but I’m enjoying the journey.

What are the biggest solar installation jobs you have done?

I’ve only done one commercial solar job, at a local electrical wholesaler. The rest have been domestic. I’ve done a couple of 15KW jobs on houses; the biggest was 15.6KW which is 39 panels. I’m looking at a few going ahead in the 30KW to 40KW range, and I’m currently quoting a 96KW system up in Newcastle, NSW.

Are there many solar installers in your area?

One of the reasons I got into solar installation is because I don’t know any other electricians who do it. I saw a great business opportunity as I already do a wide range of electrical work such as automated outdoor heating and cooling systems; construction electrical work; I look after a few pubs and clubs; have done a few jobs in mining and heavy industrial; security; CCTV; and audiovisual automation. I like to learn and expand my knowledge. I don’t want to just put in power points and lights all day. I want to be challenged and get out of my comfort zone, to look at how things work and make it happen.

Do batteries and solar often go hand-in-hand for your customers?

That side of things is exciting as there is a lot of money being invested into it, which is driving innovation and technological advances. I’m very interested in electric vehicles, which is closely related to battery technology. If your car is electric, you need electricity to charge it so that is where solar and battery storage comes in. Once the battery technology improves and is heavily adopted, the price of EVs will come down provided there is enough resources to manufacture them all. Although shortages of one raw material can lead to innovation and advances in another.

Are you seeking to expand your work in the battery space?

I have applied to Tesla to become a certified power wall installer, and I also enquired about superchargers because that would be a good [certification] to have. I like the idea of getting solar work if someone has an EV and is putting in a charger that needs power. It is all related.

Is your whole team accredited as solar installers?

Not yet, but it’s my plan. The two tradesmen are keen to do it and I will look at putting them through soon. They are excited to learn and do batteries, and like where everything is heading.

Do you ever come across dodgy operators?

For sure. I recently saw a post on a local Facebook page where someone had a door-to-door salesman pressure them into signing an expensive solar contract, where they ended up pulling the pin on it during a cooling-off period. I commented saying I’m an accredited installer and if anyone wanted a quote to send me a photo of their meter box and a copy of their power bill. I got 30 emails and a few jobs out of it. I push for pretty good gear so am competing against some people who put in cheap inverters. People who do their research are likely to go with me.