The rugby league legend lighting up the solar industry

Share

The North Queensland Cowboys, Queensland and Indigenous All-Stars legend Johnathan Thurston is famous as much for his infectious laughter as for his skills on the pitch. But since his retirement in 2018, Thurston is no longer able to laugh in the faces of New South Welshmen, instead he’s decided to laugh in the face of his electricity bill by becoming a solar ambassador last year. 

Many accuse rugby league players of being a tad brainless, but as Thurston himself said, solar is “a no-brainer.” So I guess the multi-year partnership with Instyle Solar, which involves Thurston’s own solar journey, online content and brand marketing, is a perfect match. 

For Thurston, switching to solar is not purely due to the clear monetary incentive (both from the ambassadorial deal or the electricity savings), but also environmental and personal.  

“Firstly, every little bit helps when it comes to protecting the environment,” said Thurston. “Secondly, we have seven people living in our house and our energy usage is considerable; so, it makes sense to be responsible and save money where and when we can.” 

Nor can we forget that Thurston’s former Queensland teammate, Petro “Seventy Cents A Litre” Civoniceva, has been forced over the years to abandon his famous nickname due to the ironically exhausting rise in petrol prices. A rise, it must be noted, that has been mirrored by a fall in the price of solar. Indeed, recent figures released by the International Renewable Energy Agency show that solar costs have fallen 82% since 2010. 

Thurston’s career was defined by his love of leading from the front and his love of home. So it is no surprise that Thurston found another way to bring those two loves together by installing solar atop his Townsville home. “Being from North Queensland, we are in a prime position to take advantage of the beautiful and sunny climate,” said Thurston, “so working with a company like Instyle Solar was something I’ve been interested in doing for some time, and a great opportunity to hopefully lead by example.” 

Laughing all the way to the bank. Jonathan Thurston eyeing up his solar savings.

Image: Instyle Solar

The ambassadorship of ex-rugby league players is an Australian family staple, and therefore, a strong sign of the cultural capital residential solar PV now has in Australian life. The solar industry has entered the cultural fabric. In Australia, sportspeople are gods, reality-TV stars are titans, and the intelligentsia are nowhere to be found. But that is exactly what you would expect of a country of wide-open spaces; intelligence, after all, thrives in close-quarters. New Yorkers are quick-smart, Japanese are ingenious, but Australians, like Thurston, are laughin’. 

The ambassadorship is a sign of the strength of the solar industry. A strength evident in a company started in 2014, growing to be one of QLD’s leading solar providers, expanding to New South Wales and South Australia, and having the kind of funds to focus on branding toward continued expansion. Before we know it, Kendall Jenner will be handing solar panels to American riot police. 

But perhaps solar doesn’t need Kendall’s help, after all, she’s an almost-billionaire and solar is the power of the people, a power that even Covid-19 hasn’t been able to slow down. Despite the unprecedented global pandemic crisis, Australia’s rooftop PV fleet continues to flourish after posting another big month o more than 200 MW of growth. 

“What’s really interesting is the increasing popularity of the mega-household solar system greater than 10kW,” Green Energy Markets’ (GEM) Director, Analysis and Advisory, Tristan Edis tells pv magazine Australia. “These now represent the second largest segment of the Australian solar market after the 6-7kW system size category. They represent 15% of all residential capacity registered so far this year.”

Aussie homeowners and Aussie families are recognising the indefatigable narrative of the sun. With bushfires, rolling blackouts, and global pandemics wreaking havoc with markets and electricity grid norms, Aussies are beginning to understand that not only is solar PV going to save them money, but it is also a surety and a last-defence in a world growing more uncertain by the tweet.  

Instyle Solar founder and CEO Karl brown said Thurston was a perfect it or residential solar. “Everyone knows him, and our customer base of families relates to him, he’s an all-round down to earth guy which is exactly who we want representing the business.” “He speaks their (Aussie families) language,” continued Brown, “and we’re thrilled he’s agreed to share our message of sustainable energy.”