Article originally appeared in PV Insider.
A new U.S. member-owned cooperative is to build a pool of certified staff and equipment from across the country to drive down operations and maintenance (O&M) costs and minimize full life-cycle risks for new plants, Stephen Irvin, CEO of project leader Amicus Solar, told PV Insider.
Amicus Solar already operates a solar cooperative which leverages purchasing power to reduce equipment costs and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $358,000 to Amicus Solar to build a new O&M cooperative.
Members of the O&M group will share staff and equipment from across the U.S., increasing the efficiency of O&M services for asset portfolios spread across multiple regions, according to Irvin.
Clients will slash travel times by using the services of the cooperative member closest to the plant. The target is to reduce overall O&M costs by 35% by 2019, Irvin said.
“We’ll drastically reduce travel costs, an item which our research has found to be a major barrier for companies trying to have a national reach,” he said.
O&M equipment will also be shared to reduce costs and avoid extra expenses with unnecessary equipment purchases.
Amicus’ new O&M cooperative will develop training programs and certification protocols to qualify the labor force and maximize productivity.
Amicus is currently considering collaboration with other accreditation organizations, like the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), which currently runs certification programs for the roles of PV installer, technical sales person, and solar heating installer.
By training and certifying workers, the cooperative aims to standardize best O&M practices.
Laks Sampath, U.S and Latin America manager for asset management company Alectris, said there’s a need for qualified O&M workers in the U.S. industry.
Training programs are important for solar plant operations and Alectris is in contact with Amicus to learn more about how the staff certification program, Sampath said.
“What our industry needs is people that are good at troubleshooting, it takes a completely different skill set,” he said.
Globally, solar industries are starting to implement standardised practices and performance metrics for PV plants.
Industry leaders estimate that almost half of Europe’s utility-scale PV market participants have already adopted O&M best practice guidelines published by SolarPower Europe in June.
The guidelines included a basis for standardized performance metrics for O&M services and large U.S. PV operators and service providers are also moving towards more accountable O&M performance amid increasing competition.
Members of the new Amicus cooperative will follow performance metrics that will be defined by the co-op owners, Irvin said.