A bright future in the solar industry

A bright future in the solar industry

6 June 2018

Andy Nyce (Sargood and School 2002-2005) is making his mark in the renewable energy sector in the United States.

Andy, who moved to the US in 2014, is a construction manager for the company Depcom Power which installs large-scale solar energy systems.

His job takes him right across America, where solar panel systems feed America’s growing energy needs. The industry is in a massive growth phase.

“We effectively find large areas of flat cheap land and mobilise these sites of between 100 and 700 acres in size.”

Recently he completed a 450 acre, 270,000 panel system in North Carolina, which generates enough electricity each day to feed the equivalent of 14,000 homes.

It is an interesting and transient life. “We basically go from job to job, we set up an apartment and spend about six months at each project and then move on.”

Andy grew up in Cambridge, attended Goodwood School, Cambridge Middle School and Cambridge High School before going straight to Tihoi when he arrived at St Paul’s.

“It was a great time to meet people, not knowing anyone. I think it was easier to make friends than it would have been in normal school life.”

Through St Paul’s, he did a gap year at Truro School in Cornwell, England. He then moved to Christchurch to study mechanical engineering, where he graduated from the University of Canterbury with a Bachelor of Engineering in 2010.

Not “too enthralled about getting straight into work,” he spent time in Australia working in a hostel and surfing. He then headed to the US for the first time, doing a summer camp in Maine and a ski season in Colorado. He returned to Australia where he worked for a couple of years in energy efficiency and construction.

His main break into the solar energy industry came while working and volunteering in Asia. He spent six months volunteering with a social enterprise in Northern India, installing small-scale solar systems.

“I fell into volunteering in Northern India and worked for an organisation called Ecosphere. They had this really interesting business model, where they would do these tours, integrate small scale solar systems, and fund these installs by tourism.”

He then spent some time in Cambodia doing a similar thing before arriving in the US at the end of 2014, landing his current job.

“I am on the construction side of the large scale solar industry. Up to 400,000 people are involved in the US solar industry. It is the fastest growing area of new energy installations in the US. If you are installing a new power plant in the US these days it is either wind, solar or natural gas and solar is taking a lion’s share of that these days as it has just become so cheap.”

“We effectively find large areas of flat cheap land and mobilise these sites of between 100 and 700 acres in size.”

The solar panels, which are manufactured in China, are installed and generate power to the local grid.

“We go to where the job is. I have been to probably 20 places in the US, Colorado, California, all through the East Coast. Basically in the US the industry is huge.”

“It is growing so fast there are lots of great paying jobs in the sector.”

He spoke to Network from Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was managing more than 300 staff. “I am heading up the construction side, the problem solving and all that good stuff.”

The plan is to return to New Zealand. “I definitely want to get back to New Zealand in the long run. But the opportunities in the renewable energy sector in the US are pretty unique.”

“New Zealand will get there eventually, and I would really like to be part of that in a couple of years.”

“But it doesn’t sound like any large scale solar is really taking off yet, but I am really hopeful that is will. It just takes a little bit of time.”

The job also allows him to enjoy two of his hobbies – travelling and the outdoors.

“The reason I got into renewables in the first place is that I love the outdoors and the environmental side of it, so I do a lot of hiking, climbing, camping, skiing and snowboarding.”

Andy said he caught up with St Paul’s friends while home for a month over Christmas and New Year.

He also wants to do a shout out for the organisation Sunfarmer, which uses solar energy to greatly improve the lives of low-income people in relatively poor nations.

“I came across them back in 2014 and have helped organise a number of donations to them from both my business network here in the US as well as friends and family in New Zealand.”

“If anyone in the wider St Paul’s network is interested in finding out more and helping them out that would be really awesome. Fairly small investments by New Zealand standards go a seriously long way in Nepal.”

Visit the Sunfarmer website

Photo Caption: Andy Nyce (front row) with his team at Depcom Power.


(Source: Network Magazine, Issue 95)