Catherine O'Neill - Internship at Solar Analytics

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During these past six months, I've had the amazing opportunity to work at Solar Analytics, through the UNSW Co-op Scholarship Program.

This was a great opportunity as an undergraduate student having studied Photovoltaic and Solar Energy Engineering for the last three years.

The vibe of the office was great, it wasn't too corporate (I could wear jeans to work every day!) but I was still surrounded by people who were extremely passionate and motivated about their work.

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I enjoyed the social aspect also, whether it be staying back late to watch the Cricket World Cup, or casual Friday evening drinks at the pub.

When I started working back in February there were only five full time employees, now there are 13 people in the office most days.

As a start-up Solar Analytics is constantly changing and growing and this was just one example of that.

We also have a Kanban board, showing the progress of different tasks.

When I first started there was a rule that only two tasks could be in each section at any one time. Now there are around 10 in each with barely any space left, and it is common practice to overlap post-it notes- describing the tasks- so they all fit.

I'm grateful for the amount of responsibility I was given, which would never have happened at a larger company.

Catherine O'Neill gives her end-of-placement talk to a packed house at Solar Analytics

I was given tasks to work on as either an individual or task leader, which I completed from start to finish that had real impacts on the company.

That being said, I cannot thank Jono Dore (my supervisor) enough, for his constant support and willingness to help for even the smallest of questions.

He was a great mentor and was always very approachable giving me useful feedback on all my work.

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He has so much knowledge and experience to share and I really appreciate the chance to have worked with him and to have learned new ways to approach a problem.

My favourite task at Solar Analytics was reviewing underperforming sites identified by our algorithms. Each one presented a new mystery. For every site there are so many different things that could be going wrong, and in hindsight I can see how much I have learnt.

Now I can look at a site, and determine what is wrong just by a quick glance at its energy, current, voltage and power factor output values.

Some sites offer a more difficult challenge as every day there is something new to learn about what the data is telling us.

Taking these insights and working with the engineering team at Solar Analytics, it was amazing to see these insights turned into automated algorithms.

After seeing the number of sites that aren't performing at 100% every day, I am convinced every house with a solar system installed should have monitoring.

Solar systems are a huge investment and if the panels or inverters aren't performing at their best, then you are literally losing money.

With Stefan Jarnason leading the way, Solar Analytics is a cohesive team that works hard to overcome any challenge. With a constant increase in customers, there is a constant increase in the number of sites; and with more data brings more knowledge.

I can't wait to see how much Solar Analytics will achieve in the next few years as it continues to develop and expand into the industry. 

Catherine O'Neill
UNSW 4th year PV Engineering Co-op Scholar

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