After 30 years of significant contribution to the burgeoning renewable energy industry, on 31st December Ms Susan Neill will be entering retirement. As the industry has matured, the history of the industry and the people who helped to build it are often lost on industry participants,. It is fitting then that we pay tribute to Susan and her significant achievements during her illustrious career.
Susan’s business acumen has been displayed time and again in her contribution to the significant growth of three separate companies in the often tumultuous renewable energy industry. Susan entered the industry in 1986 when she joined the family company, Quirks Victory Light Co. PL (or more commonly referred to as “Quirks”) which was founded by Susan’s great-grandfather. The company had a long history in the ‘alternative energy’ space, originally founded on the development and installation across Australia of the ‘Victory’, the air gas lighting plant which was used for lighting the streets of Canberra. As the energy industry changed, Quirks evolved under Susan’s Mother, Dorothy Gulson, developing the Australian and international markets for small wind generators (e.g. the Dunlite, Quirklite, Winco). Susan continued the company’s work with the state rail networks for the supply of specialist DC equipment. Susan developed Quirk’s (t/as Energy Today) to include quality DC equipment and the design and installation of stand-alone solar, wind and hydro
In 2005, Quirks was purchased by Conergy Gmbh and Susan became the Technical Services Manager for renewable energy, being responsible for business and product development in that space. Susan helped position Conergy as one of the main product and service providers to the solar PV industry during the industry’s key growth phase leading up to 2009.
The gas house, poles and weight of the Quirk’s air gas plant installed in 1915, ‘Greenmount’, near Mackay, Queensland (Mackay Historical Society and Museum Incorporated).
In 1998 Susan became one of the founding members of Global Sustainable Energy Solutions. Pty. Ltd. (GSES), and in 2009 Susan moved to a full time Directorship role at GSES. Since then Susan has continued to lead and build one of the most recognisable brands in the Australian renewable energy market.
Susan being acknowledged whilst providing consultancy services to a Chinese PV module manufacturer in 2000
While helping to build these three successful companies, Susan also contributed her time and effort to the growth of the industry. In the 1990s and 2000s Susan was an active member of the NSW chapter of the Solar Energy Industry Association of Australia (SEIAA) which became the Sustainable Energy Industry Association (SEIA) in 1998. Susan was the national president of SEIAA from 1995 and oversaw the merger with the Sustainable Energy Industry Council of Australia to form SEIA, where she remained an active board member until 1999. Susan’s work at SEIA helped to create the framework for the development of the Business Council of Sustainable Energy (BCSE) which is the predecessor of the Clean Energy Council (CEC). Two major and lasting contributions include Susan’s help to develop the accreditation program in 1992/93 which is now the basis for the CEC accreditation program and the creation of the Alterative Technology Retailers Association of Australia conference (ATRAA) which is now part of the yearly All Energy Conference.
Susan has also helped to develop some of the key industry standards such as AS4086: Secondary Batteries for Standalone Power Systems, AS4509: Standalone Power Systems and Susan is currently helping to develop the AS5139: Grid Connected Battery Energy Storage Systems. These standards have helped to guide quality and safety focused installations and to protect the industry as it has grown.
Susan has also co-authored numerous publications including “Grid-Connected PV Systems: Design and Installation”, “Grid-Connected PV Systems with Battery Storage”, “Grid Connected Solar Electric Systems” published by Earthscan UK, “Stand Alone Power Systems: Design and Installation”, and “Solar & Heat Pump Hot Water Systems” published by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.
Susan’s retirement is a loss to GSES and the industry; however those who know Susan well fully appreciate that she will not be one that will be idle in retirement. She will be active with the many other causes and interests that she has, in particular with Greyhound Rescue NSW. Susan leaves a legacy of attention to detail, professionalism and commitment to industry development, from training through to standards and accreditation. The directors, shareholders and staff wish Susan all the best in her retirement.
Susan with the Rural Fire chief in 2009 at the opening of the new Rural Fire Services centre at Berowra, which included grid-connected wind and solar systems.
Susan at her farewell with Christopher Martell (left), GSES Director of Engineering and Operations, and Daman Cole (right), long-time friend and Head of Sales – Brighte Capital.