How YES Group is Moving Solar Power Forward in Australia
Managing Director, Y.E.S. Group
Mark is an entrepreneur and electrician by trade with over a decade spent in high voltage and utility-scale substations, which led him into renewable energy. Today, he is the founder and managing director of YES Group, South Australia’s leading electrical, solar, and high voltage installations contractor—specializing in large-scale renewable energy installations.
Mark Yates didn’t start his career with a passion for renewable energy, but it may have become one after turning one solar farm into 100 in his hometown of Renmark, South Australia. On this episode of the Dirty Boots Show, Mark sits down with Frank Erdes to talk about how investor interest is spreading solar power across Australia and the things slowing it down.
A Sparky in Renewables
Before Mark started Yates Electrical Services (YES) Group 18 years ago, he was an electrician (or ‘sparky’ in Australia) that worked on utility-scale substations for clients and networks. This trajectory started when he was an apprentice working in the high voltage sector, and he went on to do a lot of work in the renewable energy sector.
After a decade, he returned to his hometown of Renmark in South Australia and decided to utilize the construction skills he’d learned to create a small-scale solar farm.
That was in 2016, and the interest it generated snowballed that initial solar farm to 100 across the region. From almond and citrus growers to interstate and international investors, interest in his solar farms continues to grow.
Systemizing to Scale Fast
In 2020, YES Group met a UK fund manager during a capital raise. It led Mark and his team to one of his most memorable projects yet: a five-megawatt solar farm in his hometown – 25x larger than anything they’d built.
Today, they have four projects in South Australia, and work is taking off in New South Wales, with several in the pipeline.
“New South Wales is probably the next hotspot where we’d start to deploy some of these projects for the fund,” says Mark.
Scaling at this rate comes with its own set of challenges. With floating exchange rates and logistics, Mark relies on repeatedly replicating projects to maximize efficiency. Since their first farm, they’ve kept the design and the components the same, and Mark says they become increasingly more efficient with every project.
The Future of Solar
To Mark, the rules and regulations developed in solar aren’t keeping up with the changing technology getting adopted in the market.
Like scaling, there will always be challenges with any new process, but Mark believes Australia becoming 100% renewable is simply about timing.
“We’re basically trying to reinvent the power system here in Australia in a very compressed window,” he says.
Investment will also be huge in moving Australia into 100% renewable, as reflected in YES Groups’ success so far. Mark says a lot of the investment is going towards interconnectivity between the states, creating a more reliable and stable power system for the interim.
What is the biggest thing slowing down solar power in Australia? Mark says it’s the red tape. Construction is probably the easier part of every project, and dealing with regulatory bodies during pre-construction slows it down the most. So relaxing red tape during the approval process could make a big difference in getting Australia 100% renewable.
“That’ll help streamline as well because it’s a big part of the project, and some projects can take years just to get the approvals, and the construction might be done in, say, three or six months,” Mark explains.
Frank is the Co-Host of the Dirty Boots Show. While he's not hosting the show, he's helping clients of Assignar get maximum value for their investment.