Harvesting solar energy for electricity on roofs
Tilon Holtz studied Energy and Environmental Engineering at the ZHAW School of Engineering. Today, he works for Energie Netzwerk, an engineering firm in Zürich. As a project manager, his work involves both planning and implementing solar roofs.
Energie Netzwerk GmbH operates from two sites: operational management and system maintenance and trouble-shooting are based in Bachenbülach, while ZHAW graduate Tilon Holtz works in the engineering and planning office in Zurich. There, the focus is on planning photovoltaic systems for customers. “We check the feasibility of projects, carry out economic efficiency calculations, estimate the technical difficulties and costs and, if the customer requires, support them with the project right through to its completion”, says Tilon Holtz in summing up his work. At the moment, he is looking after one of the larger solar projects in the city of Zurich – a housing development with nine pitched roofs and three flat ones. This poses various challenges for him: “The flat roofs are listed, the pitched roofs have got asbestos in them, and some of the sub-roofs need to be structurally reinforced. It’s essential to retain an overall view in this case”, he explains.
His keen interest in renewable energies and environmental protection only developed over a period of time. “After working in the insurance industry for ten years, I wanted a change of career”, Tilon Holtz recalls. He felt that the Energy and Environmental Engineering degree programme, which had just been launched at the time, was just right for him. “Amongst the engineering disciplines, there were only two degree programmes for prospective students with a commercial background. The decision was thus made easy for me.”
“For me as someone who was changing careers, I learned a great deal from the internships and from the application examples for the theoretical knowledge that we were taught. I also learned, however, to rapidly familiarise myself with new topics and get to grips with new applications.”
Tilon Holtz, ZHAW graduate and project manager at Energie Netzwerk GmbH
Tilon Holtz credits his Bachelor’s degree with being the trigger for his successful move to the renewable energies sector. He started his career as a project employee with the Canton of Zurich’s electricity utility (EKZ), before working as project manager for construction at a solar installation company. He considers that his studies and his professional experience contributed equally to preparing him for his current position as project manager for specialist planning. “For me as someone who was changing careers, I learned a great deal from the internships and from the application examples for the theoretical knowledge that we were taught. I also learned, however, to rapidly familiarise myself with new topics and get to grips with new applications.”
Tilon Holtz recommends all those wishing to change careers to complete an internship in a related sector so that they can start the degree programme with a specific problem in mind. Tilon Holtz has not yet decided whether he will be taking a Master’s degree in future. “I’m fundamentally interested in studying for a Master’s degree. Not because I want a piece of paper with a Master’s degree on it but so that I can resolve a specific problem at an academic level”.