This co-op I’ve been employed at Solar Power & Light (SP&L), a solar developer based out of Miamisburg, Ohio. SP&L is a spin-off company of buyCASTINGS.com Inc started in 2010. Despite their recent appearance on the solar stage, they have hit the green scene running and made momentous accomplishments for their age in residential and commercial solar. Currently SP&L manages the 25th largest solar array in the state–the 1 megawatt solar array at Antioch College–and is constantly looking to expand into both other facets of solar as well as increase their presence nation wide. I’ve been primarily engaged in this expansion process during my time at SP&L through R&D of new products, and researching, data mining and creating site layouts for the Illinois and Indiana markets which SP&L is hopeful to penetrate soon.
What sets SP&L apart from other developers is their willingness to dive head first into new projects, entertain new technologies, and forge niche markets with special tailored products. I’ve spent many hours in the shop working on one such project, the solar sign. This product was conceived as a way to phase out traditional monument signs lining the side of the road in commercial areas with a solar powered version. This eliminates the need to trenching, running electricity to the sign, and gives it the option of portability. It is this type of go-getting mentality that makes SP&L an exciting and diversified company.
SP&L also have an interest in both teaching and learning from their employees. I’d applied for a job with SP&L when they commenced construction on the Antioch array. I’d worked for a solar install company previously and thought I could be an asset in the construction of the array. I did end up getting my hands on the array doing quality control, but my main usefulness in SP&L’s eyes was not in the installation process (which is handled largely by subcontractors), but in my familiarity and experience working on Vermont Community Solar, a sub-project of Southern Vermont Renewable Energies (SOVEREN), and capability with tools and machinery. I’ve done some work helping SP&L try and develop their own community solar model which could be applicable in Ohio, as well as filling the gap of handyman for minor onsite fixes and installations of post project completion monitoring devices. There have been tasks that also don’t fall within my skilled areas which I’ve been tasked to not just complete, but to develop an in-depth understanding of. SP&L understands that the better educated their employees are about the concepts we are juggling, the better we are able to function synergistically as a team. They even invested in getting me OSHA 30 certified to have the potential to use me as a site manager and emergency rescue coordinator. These last tasks haven’t come to fruition yet, but I’m now an asset which can be deployed should the need arise.
My time at SP&L has been a mix of tantalizing desk work, breakthroughs when I’ve been seemingly hopelessly in over my head, and utilizing my experience to further or view an existing project through a new lens. While not always easy, and sometimes a little monotonous, the work I’ve done at SP&L has given me some solid experience in what is involved in developing a commercial scale project, and let me tell you, putting the array up is the easy part.