Australia's renewable energy sector is experiencing a period of phenomenal growth. Ambitious national targets for clean energy adoption, coupled with a global shift towards sustainability, have created a surge in demand for renewable energy solutions. Australia boasts exceptional renewable energy resources, with abundant sunshine, fierce winds, and vast landmass ideal for solar and wind farms. As we transition towards a clean energy future, technology plays a pivotal role in improving renewable energy projects, ensuring grid integration, and maximising efficiency. Tech professionals with the right skills are in high demand to develop, manage, and keep these innovative solutions.

A recent report by the Clean Energy Council (CEC) found that renewables formed 39.4% of Australia's total electricity generation in 2023, a significant increase from 17% in 2017. While according to the CEC report, 5.9 GW of new renewable generation capacity was added in 2023, highlighting the ongoing expansion of renewable energy sources.

This article delves into the key tech skills sought after in the Australian renewable energy sector, along with emerging trends and government initiatives fostering technological advancements in this critical industry.


Renewable Energy Technologies: Engineering the Future

Australia's renewable energy sector is primarily driven by two key technologies: Solar Photovoltaics (PV) and Wind Energy.

Solar Photovoltaics (PV)

Solar PV technology converts sunlight into electricity, and Australia is a global leader in solar energy adoption. It stays the largest source of renewable energy in Australia, contributing 9% to the total electricity generation in 2023. Tech professionals with ability in:

• Electrical Engineering: Designing and improving large-scale solar farms requires a strong understanding of electrical engineering principles for efficient power generation and grid integration.

• Control Systems:  Effective management of solar farms involves implementing control systems for monitoring and improving energy production, ensuring safety, and maximising system efficiency.

• Data Analysis for Performance Monitoring:  Data analysis skills are crucial for extracting valuable insights from solar farm performance data. This allows for finding potential issues, refining maintenance schedules, and maximising energy output.

Wind Energy

Wind turbines harness the power of wind to generate electricity. It is the second-largest source of renewable energy in Australia, generating around 11% of the nation's electricity in 2022. The Australian Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reports that over 8,000 MW of wind energy projects are currently under construction or awaiting approval, showing continued growth in wind energy ability. Tech professionals play a vital role in this sector, with ability in:

• Mechanical Engineering:  Understanding the mechanical principles of wind turbine operation is crucial for design, maintenance, and ensuring best performance.

• Control Systems:  Similar to solar farms, wind turbines require sophisticated control systems to manage blade pitch, yaw control, and ensure safe and efficient operation under varying wind conditions.

• Data Analysis for Wind Resource Forecasting:  Accurate wind resource assessment and forecasting are critical for improving wind farm placement and maximising energy production. Tech professionals skilled in data analysis and wind resource modelling play a vital role in this area.

Iberdrola (formerly Infigen) Energy - Powering Australia with Renewables

Iberdrola Energy is a leading Australian renewable energy company, running a portfolio of large-scale solar and wind farms across the nation. Their project teams need a diverse range of tech skills, including:

  1. Electrical engineers for designing and improving solar and wind farms.
  1. Control systems specialists for managing turbine operations and grid integration.
  1. Data analysts extract valuable insights from operational data for performance improvement.
  1. GIS specialists for site choice and environmental impact assessments.

By harnessing a team with these crucial tech skills, Iberdrola Energy delivers clean energy solutions for a sustainable Australia.


Data Analysis and Modelling: Improving Renewable Energy Performance

Australia's diverse climate conditions require robust data analysis and modelling capabilities to improve renewable energy projects. Here's where tech professionals with the following skills come into play:

• Data Management:  The ability to collect, store, and organise vast amounts of data generated by renewable energy projects is crucial for effective analysis.

• Data Visualisation:  Transforming complex data sets into clear and informative visualisations allows for easier communication and identification of trends and patterns.

• Ability in Programming Tools:  Tech professionals skilled in programming languages like Python and R, along with machine learning libraries like TensorFlow or PyTorch, are highly sought after. These tools enable sophisticated data analysis, forecasting, and optimisation.

Applications of Data Analysis in Renewables

• Predicting Solar or Wind Energy Production:  By analysing historical data and weather patterns, data analysis allows for more correct forecasting of solar and wind energy production. This information is crucial for grid operators to manage energy supply and demand effectively.

• Improving Energy Storage based on Weather Patterns:  Integrating renewable energy sources with energy storage solutions is key to grid stability. Data analysis is used to predict weather patterns and energy demand fluctuations, allowing for optimised charging and discharging.

• Grid Integration Analysis for Efficient Power Distribution: Data analysis plays a vital role in improving the integration of renewable energy sources into the electricity grid. By analysing energy flow patterns, demand fluctuations, and grid capacity, engineers can design more efficient and reliable power distribution systems.

CSIRO and AEMO - Leading the Way in Renewable Energy Data Analysis

Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) are at the forefront of data analysis and modelling in the renewable energy sector. Here are some examples:

These examples highlight the crucial role data analysis plays in improving Australia's transition to a clean energy future.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): Powering Intelligent Renewables

AI and ML are rapidly transforming the renewable energy landscape in Australia. These technologies are being applied in several ways:

• Predictive Maintenance for Renewables:  AI algorithms can analyse sensor data from wind turbines and solar panels to predict potential failures and schedule maintenance proactively. This minimises downtime and maximises energy production.

• Improving Energy Grid Management:  AI can analyse vast amounts of data in real-time to forecast energy demand, improve grid operations, and integrate renewable energy sources more effectively. This includes factors like weather patterns, peak usage times, and real-time energy production from renewables.

• Automating Tasks in Renewables Development:  AI can automate repetitive tasks in renewable energy project development, such as data analysis, site assessments, and performance monitoring. This frees up human ability for more complex tasks and strategic decision-making.

Australian Initiatives in AI for Renewables

These efforts highlight Australia's commitment to harnessing AI for a more efficient and sustainable energy future.


Cybersecurity: Protecting the Grid in a Digital Age

With the growing integration of smart technologies and grid infrastructure in Australian renewable energy projects, the need for robust cybersecurity ability is paramount. Here's where tech professionals with the following skills are crucial:

• Network Security:  Protecting the digital infrastructure of renewable energy projects from cyberattacks is essential. Skills in network security protocols, intrusion detection, and vulnerability management are highly sought after.

• SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) System Security:  SCADA systems are critical for managing and controlling renewable energy projects. Ensuring the security of these systems requires specialised knowledge and best practices.

• IT Infrastructure Security Best Practices:  Implementing and keeping robust IT security protocols across all aspects of renewable energy projects is crucial to protect them from cyber threats.

• Compliance with Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) Guidelines:  Understanding and adhering to the Australian Cyber Security Centre's (ACSC) guidelines ensures projects meet the highest cybersecurity standards.


Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Mapping the Future of Renewables

Australia's vast and diverse landscapes benefit from the application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in renewable energy projects. GIS plays a vital role in:

• Finding Optimal Locations:  GIS tools enable analysis of factors like solar radiation, wind patterns, and environmental impact to find the most suitable locations for renewable energy projects.

• Land Use Planning and Infrastructure Development:  GIS aids in planning for efficient land use and infrastructure development associated with renewable energy projects, such as transmission lines and access roads.

• Environmental Impact Assessments:  GIS eases environmental impact assessments by overlaying project sites with ecological data, allowing for informed decision-making and minimising environmental impact.

Skills for Success in GIS for Renewables:

  • Ability in GIS software like ArcGIS or QGIS is essential.
  • Strong analytical skills for interpreting spatial data are crucial.
  • Understanding of Australian environmental regulations and permitting processes is helpful.

Umwelt and ERM Consulting - Using GIS for Sustainable Development

Environmental consultancies like Umwelt or ERM Consulting leverage GIS technology for projects in the renewable energy sector. Here are some examples:

  • Utilising GIS to show the best locations for wind farms with minimal environmental impact on sensitive ecological areas.
  • Creating detailed geospatial analyses to support environmental impact assessments for solar farm projects.

By integrating GIS into their practices, these companies contribute to a sustainable development model for Australia's renewable energy sector.

Communication and Collaboration: Building a Sustainable Future Together

The success of Australia's renewable energy transition hinges not only on technical ability but also on effective communication and collaboration. Tech professionals working in this sector must have strong:

• Written and Verbal Communication Skills:  The ability to clearly communicate complex technical concepts to diverse stakeholders, including engineers, scientists, policymakers, and the public, is crucial.

• Collaboration Skills:  Renewable energy projects involve teamwork across various disciplines. Tech professionals need to collaborate effectively with engineers, scientists, traditional landowners, and other stakeholders to ensure project success.

• Interpersonal Skills:  Building strong relationships and fostering trust among team members and stakeholders is essential for navigating complex projects and achieving shared goals.

Building a Brighter Future with Tech Expertise

Australia's booming renewable energy sector presents a wealth of exciting opportunities for tech professionals with the right skillset. From designing and improving solar farms to harnessing the power of AI for grid management, the possibilities are vast. Here's a quick recap of the top tech skills in high demand:

  • Renewable Energy Technologies: Electrical engineering, control systems, and data analysis for solar and wind projects.
  • Data Analysis and Modelling: Ability in data management, visualization, and programming tools like Python, R, and machine learning libraries.
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: Skills for developing AI applications in predictive maintenance, grid optimization, and automating tasks.
  • Cybersecurity: Network security, SCADA system security, and IT infrastructure security best practices.
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Ability in GIS software, spatial data analysis, and understanding of Australian environmental regulations.

By upskilling or specialising in these areas, tech professionals can actively contribute to Australia's clean energy future. This not only offers rewarding career opportunities but also the chance to make a positive impact on our planet.

Are you a tech professional seeking to make a difference? Contact Northbridge Recruitment to explore exciting career opportunities in the booming Australian renewable energy sector. For employers seeking top tech talent in the renewables field, Northbridge Recruitment can help you find the perfect fit.

Together, with the power of technology and skilled professionals, we can build a cleaner, brighter future powered by renewable energy for generations to come.