Amicus Solar Uses Combined Buying Power of Co-op to Ink Major Deal with Locus Energy

on June 19, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Solar Energy Panels Are Installed On Colorado Homes

What are the similarities between Ace Hardware and the solar industry? Many more than you might think after the recent announcement that the nation’s only solar purchasing cooperative, Amicus Solar Cooperative, chose Locus Energy as the preferred monitoring provider for its 30 members throughout the country.

Amicus, meaning “friend” in Latin, is a group of independently owned EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contractors and solar integrators that came together in 2011 to pool purchasing power and best practices in order to compete with the large national integrators. And with a report from IHS out earlier this year proclaiming that 30 of the largest EPCs in the PV industry are installing 30 percent of the world’s non-residential capacity in 2013, it’s clear that independently owned and operated EPCs need an organization like Amicus in order to band together and compete.

What will make Amicus a success for its members and the solar industry, as Ace Hardware has been for its more than 4,700 independent store members over the past 90 years in the face of stiff competition from behemoths like Loews and Home Depot, will be combined best practices and information sharing, as well as the joint purchasing power achieved by the co-ops’ strength in numbers. By pooling the buying clout of its 30 members in 22 states, Amicus is able to preserve the businesses of its independent EPC and solar integrator members, many of whom entered the solar industry more than a decade ago when small, independent EPCs and solar integrators were the norm, rather than the exception. The cooperative model allows members to save on costs, as well as to share their experiences with prospective vendors, thus allowing them to choose the best performers.

Here’s how it works.

As an example, Amicus recently chose Locus Energy, the nation’s largest independent provider of solar monitoring solutions with more than 40,000 systems, as its preferred provider for solar monitoring. The main factors in the decision came from Locus’ performance after a detailed, year-long evaluation that consisted of in-depth research into key performance categories, including reliability and ease of use, troubleshooting and analytics capabilities, product options and warranties, quality of technical support and even future platform capabilities. This type of survey would not have been possible for each individual EPC to conduct on its own, and the feedback on experience that a number of Amicus EPC’s had working with Locus would have been nonexistent. Under this preferred vendor agreement, Amicus’ members were able to secure industry-competitive pricing on solar monitoring hardware and management software without having to research and negotiate these products individually.

By pooling resources, Amicus is also able to keep an eye out for technological innovation in the industry. In the case of Locus, members were impressed by the company’s new Virtual Irradiance (VI tool) that gives systems managers and operators a highly accurate ground-level sunlight analysis – data that can be used to develop an accurate assessment of how much energy a solar system should be producing. Amicus provides its members with recommendations on new technology like VI so that they are able to remain competitive with larger integrators in the years to come.

At the end of the day, Amicus’ new cooperative model is all about helping EPCs and solar integrators deliver the best products and services available to their customers at prices that are competitive with those secured by much larger players. With such tools at their disposal, Amicus’ membership will have a competitive advantage as the solar industry continues on its extraordinary growth trajectory, inching ever closer towards grid parity.

Stephen K. Irvin is President of Amicus Solar Cooperative and Adrian De Luca is Vice President, Sales and Marketing at Locus Energy.