Country tradie behind major solar projects in Pirie

BRIGHT: Electrician Mark Yates stands beside a solar array similar to those that he is installing at two sites in Port Pirie. Mark sees a bright future for the renewable energy industry.
BRIGHT: Electrician Mark Yates stands beside a solar array similar to those that he is installing at two sites in Port Pirie. Mark sees a bright future for the renewable energy industry.

A tradie who originally worked from the back of his van has masterminded two solar ventures worth millions of dollars in Port Pirie.

Mark Yates, of Paringa, in the Riverland, is at the helm of a 8000-panel solar farm covering about four hectares in Pirie Blocks Road south of our city.

The farm, worth up to $4 million, will be "energised" at the end of this month.

Nearby in Pirie Blocks Road, a bigger $10 million development involving more than 15,000 panels is planned for a 10-hectare site. It is due to be finished by the end of the year.

The five-month building project for both ventures will involve up to a dozen workers with an extra 15 to 20 as sub-contractors.

"One project is coming to a close and the next one is about to start," Mr Yates said.

His company has built 50 of the 116 registered solar projects in country South Australia including two at Orroroo.

The developments in Port Pirie are his first in our city.

"I started working as an electrician from the back of a $1000 van in Renmark about 14 years ago," he said modestly. Now we employ about 40 people, mostly with Yates Electrical Service."

The solar ventures are being built by Green Gold Energy, of which Mr Yates in one of two shareholders.

He said no government subsidies were attached to the projects, but incentives were offered through the awarding of Large Generation Certificates which could then be traded on the market.

One certificate is earned for every Megawatt-hour of power that is generated.

The certificates are capped at $65 each, but the price now is about $38 and fluctuates according to demand.

It is difficult to estimate the returns to be gained from the sale of certificates by the company.

Mr Yates' first solar ventures were in the Riverland on properties where water entitlements had been sold, leaving the land useless.

He "repurposed" the land with panels aimed at the sun.

"We have a great solar resource in Australia," he said.

"It is pretty difficult not to be involved in renewables ... it is a world-wide transition ... it is a mainstream industry for electrical."

Green Gold Energy has its headquarters in Kent Town, Adelaide, but most of the staff are from the Riverland.

"All of the labour that we employed comes from the Riverland," Mr Yates said.

It is pretty difficult not to be involved in renewables ... it is a world-wide transition.

Mark Yates

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