Amanda Bybee, CEO Amicus O&M Cooperative: Page 2 of 3
Inside this Article
The US solar industry fielded systems at an unprecedented rate of 1 MW every 32 minutes in Q3 2016...
Though life is never boring on the Solarcoaster, the start of SolarPro’s tenth calendar year seems...
Stephen Irvin served as Namaste Solar’s chief financial officer before stepping into a dedicated...
SP: So you’re addressing some of the soft costs and streamlining things for the members.
AB: Exactly. We also emphasize training, because part of the promise of creating this greater level of consistency and standardization is in having all the technicians train to a certain level. We partnered with Solar Energy International in 2017 and trained technicians from all 20 member companies, 45 in all.
Inherent in a cooperative is the sharing of best practices. It’s a way to share experiences and new tools, ideas, marketing concepts and so on. It’s also a way for us to have an internal marketplace for spare parts. That’s a big thorny problem that everybody encounters. What do you do when you can’t find parts to replace the broken ones?
There’s also a lot of potential for workforce sharing. If you’ve got a big job and you’d like to have more technicians than you have on your team, you call your fellow co-op members and see if anybody else has some technicians they can share for a few days. If you’re getting out on a new site, but it’s really closer to someone else, you can work together to provide the services.
The other reason a lot of companies have joined is that the co-op is a potential revenue driver for them. They can be the recipients of work orders. Sales companies can have a reach into new markets.
The last thing is the tool lending libraries. We’ve been able to purchase some tools that members can now borrow and supplement what they already have. We’ve got some higher-end I-V curve tracers and three thermal imaging cameras. Given a few days’ notice, I can ship them wherever member companies need them.
The companies have said that it’s been helpful to have access to tools they themselves don’t currently own that are faster at taking the readings, and that they’ve been able to use them for training others. Lastly, for big commissioning jobs, they’ve been able to do more concurrent testing and reduce time on-site, for greater efficiency overall. Win-win-win.
Really, that is what the cooperative is all about: raising standards and consistency across all of the member companies, and enabling them to do the work more efficiently so that we save time and money.
SP: What’s the value for customers in hiring co-op member companies?
AB: The biggest one is access to a national network of contractors with trained technicians. They also have access to the software, so they can see the information relevant to their sites, their work orders, their upcoming invoices, their reports and so on, with a great deal of consistency.
If you’re an asset owner, and you don’t want to manage a lot of regional contractors, you could work with just one member company that would be your single point of contact. It would handle all the dispatch and management on the back end.
Because we’re trying to fill in the map with member companies from all over the US, there will hopefully be less travel time. You’ll have faster responses to get out and address problems and lower costs as a result.
The level of redundancy in having all the members of the cooperative trained in the same tools allows you to substitute one member company for another if necessary.
SP: What types of clients and market sectors does the Amicus O&M Cooperative serve?
AB: Originally, we thought we’d serve the C&I and small utility–scale marketplace. I’ve had a fairly large number of inquiries about residential fleets, and that’s certainly on the table for the future. Our ideal client manages a geographically diverse project portfolio with systems ranging in capacity from 250 kW–500 kW up to 20 MW–30 MW, and outsources its O&M work. Then the other thing we look for is that our values are aligned.