Chris Wilson

Chris Wilson

Job Title

Electrical and Renewable Energy Engineer

Who do you work for?

I work for the Government Architect’s Office, which is part of NSW Public Works.

What does your job involve?

I design and supervise the construction of building-mounted solar power systems for public buildings, including schools, TAFE Colleges and Council facilities.

Why did you choose to work in the renewable energy industry?

I am motivated by a commitment to the environment and the community as a whole. Everyone you meet in the renewable energy industry is deeply passionate about what they do, and I find it immensely satisfying to have a career that provides an opportunity to help curb Australia’s changing climate.

What has been one of your greatest achievements?

Being on the front end of building some of Sydney’s largest solar power systems are my greatest achievements. After designing and installing a solar power system for NSW State Parliament House, then Sydney Town Hall, I am now installing Australia’s second largest building-mounted solar system on the building that houses Cate Blanchett’s beloved Sydney Theatre Company.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Being a public servant and helping a vibrant industry grow. I really enjoy working for the Government because it enables you to interact with many interesting and diverse professions. I work with architects, engineers, builders, and even policy makers and artistic directors on occasions. But what I most enjoy is interacting with the community and industry groups, because this really makes you feel like you have a sense of purpose.

What is the biggest problem you have had to deal with over your career?

My biggest challenge has been integrating 21st century technology solar panels onto the roof of the 121-year old Sydney Town Hall and onto the 100-year old roof of the building that houses the Sydney Theatre Company. These buildings have enormous historical value, so it was challenging to uphold the distinctive character of the buildings whilst incorporating solar panels on their roof. It was inspirational leaders such as the Lord Mayor of Sydney and the Sydney Theatre Company (STC) Artistic Directors, Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton, who provided the vision and impetus for these projects. The buildings are testaments to their belief that you can adapt to new challenges such as climate change and yet still preserve the historical significance of buildings that are icons of Australia’s glorious past.

What are some of the benefits of your position?

My Department provided me with lots of training as a graduate and also allowed me to rotate to different roles within the Department, which has given me a diverse range of experiences and has enabled me to develop a range of skills. In addition the Department gave me study leave to attend classes and study for exams for my Masters degree in Environmental Management and even paid half the fees.

What training did you have for this job?

My favorite subjects at school were maths and physics, which helped in my Bachelor of Photovoltaic and Renewable Engineering at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).  This took four years. I then completed my Masters degree in Environmental Management.

However, it was on the job that I learned the importance of communication with other people. So I am very grateful now that I studied Advanced English when I was at school.

What is your advice to students?

A low tertiary entrance score is not the end of the world; there are many ways to get into courses that you want to do.  But don’t just pick subjects that are going to boost your score – choose subjects that interest you, because these will continue to motivate you in years to come.

I would also encourage you to expand your knowledge of the working world. Volunteer at an organisation or charity group. These experiences will not only help develop good communication skills but also skills in dealing with exciting and challenging situations, both of which will be vital in your career.