Solar facility to create 35 jobs: Manufacturing, power generation at its core

SPARKS FLY: A Ceramet Solar welder working on a solar car port.
SPARKS FLY: A Ceramet Solar welder working on a solar car port.

A solar-inspired manufacturing company in Bridgewater plans to create 35 local jobs over the next few years. 

Ceramet Solar, a subsidiary of Ceramet Automotive – a Ballarat-based manufacturer – says it is harnessing the growing interest in renewable energy to create industry-specific products. 

Solar car ports with electric vehicle charging points and dual and single axis trackers for solar panels are three products the company hopes to mass produce with the help of local labour. 

The company is in the process of increasing its solar power generation at the Bridgewater site, which has traditionally been a research and development facility, from 500 kilowatts to 1.5 megawatts – a move it believes will create more local jobs. 

Additionally, plans are afoot to partner with South West TAFE to offer on-site solar training programs for electrical installers, which aims to address a local skill set shortage. 

Loddon Shire agribusiness development officer, Darryn Hartnett, and Ceramet Solar engineering manager, Simon Maan, at the solar facility in Bridgewater.

Loddon Shire agribusiness development officer, Darryn Hartnett, and Ceramet Solar engineering manager, Simon Maan, at the solar facility in Bridgewater.

Ceramet Solar engineering manager Simon Maan, who has been involved at the site for a number of years with its various owners, said it was “very comforting” to see a company creating a product that would sustain long-term jobs.

“Previously it has been about job creation but with a product that’s a bit on the flaky side,” he said. 

Local skills would help address the lack of Australian-made solar products in the country, he said.

“We need the local people, the people that work the farms, the skills they have are fantastic. They are the people that get stuff done,” he said. 

Loddon Shire agribusiness development officer Darryn Hartnett said the announcement was a “huge boost to Bridgewater in the immediacy, but also the wider community”.

Darryn Hartnett, from Loddon Shire, and Simon Maan, Ceramet Solar engineering manager, discuss the company's plan to create 35 local jobs.

Darryn Hartnett, from Loddon Shire, and Simon Maan, Ceramet Solar engineering manager, discuss the company's plan to create 35 local jobs.

“There is a lot of activity around renewables, and this firm (Ceramet Solar) is important for other potential businesses across the region,” he said. 

Ceramet Solar hopes an increased political appetite for solar-powered electricity, combined with the potential for community-owned solar farms in Greater Bendigo, will sustain its business model and the 35 jobs it plans to create. 

Old regime

At the Bridgewater facility, vestiges of the research and development regime still loom large. 

Giant circular solar panels, visible from the Calder Highway, stand tall in rows on the 40-hectare site. 

The dishes will soon be dismantled, with its parts recycled, to be replaced by more cost-effective and efficient flat solar panels. 

The facility and its assets, bought by Ceramet in 2015, had a couple of owners in previous years, neither of whom had the appetite or finance to sustain an operation that was unprofitable. 

By diversifying to solar-specific training, increasing its power generation and harnessing the manufacturing nous of its parent company, Ceramet Solar is confident of sustaining long-term jobs for the region.