AMWU members making the silent transition to clean technology
Dec 06, 2011
Throughout his 18 and a half years at manufacturing company Austeng, AMWU delegate Perry Devery has worked on just about every job a boilermaker can.
He’s welded conveyor systems, impregnators, earth moving equipment and industrial ovens. But few jobs have captured his imagination in recent time like the EcoWhisper – a unique example of Australia’s clean technology future.
“I like it because it’s big, it’s steel and I like big heavy stuff,” he says fondly.
The EcoWhisper is a wind turbine with a difference. Smaller than a standard generator it stands at 21 meters but features an intuitive blade system that provides near silent operation.
Austeng, a company with a diverse range of customers was approached by the EcoWhisper’s developers, Renewable Energy Solutions Australia (RESA), to bring the concept to life.
“The pole, that was built in a week, but the fan…that was a bit more complicated,” Perry says, as he recounts the step-by-step process of creating the maiden EcoWhisper.
Austeng managing director, Ross George, says the company was immediately attracted to the project’s possibilities, which now sits in the front yard of it’s North Geelong premises in Victoria – providing a third of the site’s power.
“We are a very traditional company, a third generation company, traditionally our customers were the ones you would normally expect; International Harvester, Ford, Bendix, Mitsubishi, Nissan.
“Many of those have left or are no longer spending much money locally, which means we’ve got to reinvent ourselves.
“We’ve taken the decision to reinvent our customer base rather than our workforce or our capabilities. We’ve kept the same business model and we’re looking for new areas to move into. Clean technology has a lot of growth potential for us.”
He says Austeng are keen to win future contracts to make the turbines, in their entirety, at the Geelong site. But he knows the company faces challenges in keeping the technology in Australia.
“Australia is very good at doing the smart development work but we (Austeng) have to put a package together that makes it look attractive to maintain the work here.”
Once testing on the first EcoWhisper is complete, developers RESA are hopeful the technology can be marketed locally and internationally. The silent operation of the turbines, the ability to operate in a range of wind conditions and its low visual impact makes it ideal for urban developments, commercial sites and agricultural applications.
AMWU Victoria Environment Officer, Colleen Gibbs, says the project should spark other Victorian manufacturers into action.
“Austeng are a great example of a traditional manufacturer who have been willing to embrace clean technology and new opportunities.
“With the federal government’s Carbon Price investment package and the incentives for industry to lower their carbon footprint, hopefully there will be a greater incentive for our manufacturers to build clean technology here.
“That means more jobs for our members.”