19 March 2024

40 Years of Industry Impact: ICN Pacific – Link for Solar

article image

ICN Pacific – Link for Solar, ICN Victoria

First Solar, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of photovoltaic (PV) solar systems, was based in the US with additional plants in Germany and Malaysia. When entering the Australian market, it required local suppliers of quality components, which were challenging to find in such a new industry. ICN facilitated the connection between Hofmann Engineering and First Solar, thereby introducing a local engineering leader to the burgeoning 21st-century growth industry.

One of First Solar’s guiding principles was to collaborate with suppliers from the local market whenever feasible. For Australia, First Solar turned to ICN, having previously engaged with them regarding a Victorian solar proposal in 2010. Impressed by ICN’s industry knowledge, First Solar sought further assistance.

Rob Bartrop, First Solar’s former Business Development Manager in Australia, recounted, “Coming from the USA, we really credit what ICN did to help us engage with local suppliers. ICN took extraordinary steps to become involved in our activities and help our procurement team build relationships with local suppliers.”

First Solar particularly sought a local supplier for the specially-made brackets holding the valuable solar panels in place in their array structures. ICN’s Victorian office identified Hofmann Engineering, a company with the requisite metal tooling capabilities. Hofmann Engineering, with over 50 years of experience providing high precision engineering solutions to various industries, including defence, transport, biomedical, resources, and energy, was a trusted partner for ICN. According to ICN, “We have worked with Hofmann Engineering for over 10 years. They’d delivered on complex projects such as the Australian Synchrotron project, and we knew they could provide a world-class product at a competitive price.”

For Hofmann Engineering, this presented a significant opportunity to leverage their proven skills into a new but related market. The relationship between the two companies progressed according to plan.

Hofmann Engineering geared up its Cheltenham factory to manufacture the large steel brackets required by First Solar. They hired new staff and trained them alongside existing skilled engineering teams to precision-press the brackets. Denver Alvis, Hofmann Engineering’s former Business Manager, expressed appreciation for ICN’s “excellent work in this endeavour” in identifying the opportunity and seeing it through to the partnership with First Solar.

Hofmann Engineering became fully equipped to manufacture brackets for any or all of First Solar’s projects in the region. First Solar, equally confident in the partnership’s future, acknowledged ICN’s crucial role in finding an Australian supplier, avoiding the need to import brackets and alleviating stress on its supply chain. With projects pending across mainland Australian states, First Solar secured a reliable source for critical brackets.

“We will continue to work with ICN to find the best local metalworkers and manufacturers,” stated Rob Bartrop. “And also Australian designers who can help us tweak our own products to meet Australian standards and suit Australian landscapes.”

This partnership exemplifies how ICN’s long-term support and deep industry knowledge have mutually benefited Australian firms and their international counterparts. For First Solar and Hofmann Engineering, ICN facilitated collaboration across the Pacific in an industry with a promising long-term future.

ICN serves as Australia and New Zealand’s innovative industry matchmaker, connecting major project developers with the best suppliers and vice versa. With 28 years of experience, over 100 technical experts, and the ICN Gateway, clients are assured they’ll never miss an opportunity to make the right connection.

More news

Selling to Government – information on Australian Government procurement and contracting opportunities

The Department of Finance’s Selling to Government website provides information to support businesses understand how to participate in Australian Government procurement and contracting opportunities

Gateway by ICN

Use our powerful networking database to find your next project (big and small), or source the best suppliers across Australia and New Zealand.

Visit Site Login
Hero image
Hero image

Stay informed

Opportunities and insight delivered straight to your inbox. The latest procurement and supply chain news, events and projects in Australia and New Zealand. Just tell us your email address.


ICN help desk

Phone 1300 961 139 (within Australia)
Phone +61 2 6285 2033 (outside Australia)
Email helpdesk@icncopy