Why this Mackay energy manufacturer has its eyes set on Industry 4.0

November 2020

Jason Sharam believes the future is off-the-grid

 

Linked Group Services started out as a mining services and solar company focused on the region’s mining sector with six full-time staff.

10 years later, trade services are still a major part of their business, but the company has since moved into manufacturing renewable energy solutions for everything from shopping malls to construction sites.

“Today we’re about 50 per cent trade and 50 per cent renewable energy services,” said Jason Sharam, Managing Director of Linked Group Services.

“What makes us unique is that we’re a vertically integrated renewable energy business, meaning that aside from assembling the solar panels themselves, we manufacture everything in house.”

Mr Sharam and his business partner, Peter Shaw, identified a gap in the market for renewable energy products that were tailored to the unique conditions of Queensland.

When the sun’s not shining and extreme weather events disrupt power supplies, businesses need a reliable energy supply that can withstand extreme conditions both under residential and commercial settings. 

Mr Sharam and Mr Shaw decided to bring renewable energy design, fabrication and manufacturing under the roof of an 800 square meter facility in Paget while expanding its capabilities in electrical and mechanical engineering.

“It was an enormous investment at the time, but I can honestly say it wouldn’t have been possible without our staff who came along on the journey with us.

“We upskilled our electricians who previously knew nothing other than mining to produce renewable energy units,” Mr Sharam said.

“I strongly believe it’s better to invest in upskilling existing staff than hire new talent because they’re more likely to take ownership of new projects and stick with the company during a major transformation, he said

 

One of Linked Group Services’ latest projects is a solar carport installed in Townsville’s Willows Shopping Centre, generating 1.5 megawatt hours of solar energy across 500 car spaces. 

Tipped as one of Australia’s largest solar car parks, the panels produce clean electricity for the shopping mall, keeping energy prices low and helping advance the property’s goal of zero carbon emissions by 2030. 

Linked Group Services made its foray into the energy business through microgrid solutions in which a decentralised group of inverters, batteries and backup generators are used to produce electricity.

The innovation can power vehicles, machinery and entire buildings off the grid, slashing energy bills, sustaining communities and powering work sites in remote locations across Queensland.

“Our first microgrid, the Linked Powerhouse, incorporates solar on various buildings, carports and even in the windows. All this energy is fed into a Tesla battery pack which stores up to 200 kilowatts hours of energy and generates 100 kilowatts of power for use at the site.

“We can modify the unit to store up to one megawatt of electricity, so at full charge, we would be  able to power up to 200 homes,” Mr Sharam said. 

“Next to the battery packs, we’ve installed a backup generator and a micro turbine powered by liquid petroleum gas, meaning our customers have a more cost competitive and reliable alternative to diesel generators.”

Fossil fuels are still an important part of the energy mix, however, Jason and his team believe the economics behind commercial-grade renewable energy has overtaken traditional energy sources, prompting them to phase out their use of LPG in favour of hydrogen.

With the energy stored in the form of hydrogen produced via solar and an electrolyser, Linked Group Services can retrofit their current turbine to run on that stored hydrogen.

“This will bring our microgrid solution up to 100 per cent renewable energy which we can then scale up or down for households, businesses or entire communities,” Mr Sharam said.

Industry 4.0 is the next step for Jason and Peter with their eyes fixed firmly on automation and the internet of things.

“By giving people more control over their energy, we can help our customers save tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the asset.

“With smart, electric vehicles coming into play in the near future, we want to drive the installation of microgrids across the country in a way that’s accessible to consumers,” Mr Sharam said. 

Back to Top