Five minutes with Neil O’Sullivan

Noja Power group managing director Neil O'Sullivan
Noja Power group managing director Neil O'Sullivan

Neil O’Sullivan is Noja Power’s group managing director.

ES&D: How do you partner with utilities to innovate and problem solve in such a dynamic sector?

Neil: To ensure NOJA Power’s products remain at the forefront of technology, a significant percentage of the company’s annual turnover is dedicated to research and development. Our research is always focused on safety with all our products arc-fault contained and vented. A good example of this is the testing that was conducted at Test and Certification Australia on our single-phase product. This was done to meet the requirements of the Royal Commission into bushfires in Victoria, which then saw our products deployed extensively on the single wire earth return (SWER) network. Research is the key to driving innovation and the recent product launches of the Visi-Switch product, with its solid insulation vacuum load break and patented visible break isolation, introduces completely new solutions for reliable enclosed load break switches of the future. This epitomises NOJA Power’s focus on research to create completely new technologies to allow our electricity utility customers to improve the safety and network performance of their distribution systems.

ES&D: Improving the reliability and lifetime of assets is a growing concern for the energy sector. What is NOJA Power doing about ageing infrastructure?

Neil: My view is the future of electricity distribution is in connectivity and two-way power flow on the network. There will always be an electricity distribution system but it is going to significantly change in the coming years with more and more renewable energy connected to the grid – particularly at the distribution level. This will create feeders that run backwards during the day with significant loads at night. More storage will be connected to the grid to manage peaks, but ultimately, utilities will be the key enablers of the connectivity of renewable energy and storage.

ES&D: NOJA Power has received a number of accolades for its technological and manufacturing achievements. What awards are you most proud of?

Neil: It’s not the awards themselves I’m proud of, but what they signify. The awards and accolades NOJA Power has received throughout the years is the direct result of the capability of our employees. The human capital that exists in our business is our most important asset.

ES&D: Switchgear products don’t only have to offer years of reliable service, utilities also want them to be environmentally friendly. What is NOJA Power doing to ensure its ACRs meet ‘green’ obligations?

Neil: Since day one, when we first started to develop the first generation of products, we have focused on eliminating the use of SF6 gas in medium-voltage switchgear – and I am proud to say none of our products have ever used SF6 gas as an interruption or insulation medium. All our products use solid dielectric technologies, which is a significant advancement in creating environmentally friendly switchgear. We hope our electricity utility customers improve their environmental footprint by taking our lead and making sure their switchgear provides a reliable and safe operating life.

ES&D: Tell us about the export side of the business.

Neil: NOJA Power products were born in Queensland and are now exported to 84 countries globally. We have a wholly-owned subsidiary factory operating in Campinas, Brazil, along with our own offices in the US, the UK, Germany, Chile and Brazil, and a team of global distributors that successfully service and support our products around the world. I believe NOJA Power represents the future of manufacturing businesses in Australia; manufacturing high technology products with a global factory focus for a global market.

ES&D: What major projects are you particularly proud of, either in Australia or overseas?

Neil: A standout project we are heavily involved with is the fortification of the distribution network around Brazil. We started working on this project in the lead up to last year’s Soccer World Cup, and we will continue into next year with the 2016 Rio Olympics and Paralympics. Our products provided the primary protection together with auto changeover systems to ensure the reliable supply at several stadiums – silently working night and day to ensure reliability of supply in some of the harshest environments in the world.