June 2017

Working Together, Small Solar Firms Compete With Big-Name Rivals — Episode 45 of Local Energy Rules Podcast

Organization(s): Institute for Local Self Reliance , Amicus Solar Cooperative

Fast-improving technology and growing consumer interest continue to put momentum behind the clean energy transition. Unlike utilities and other industry players that have largely ignored growth opportunities as market dynamics shift, a coalition of independent solar companies is harnessing its combined power to command more influence in the marketplace.

Amicus Solar Cooperative formed in Colorado in 2011, an outgrowth of increased demand for solar services in communities across the U.S. The idea was simple: crafting group purchasing agreements to allows independent solar companies to aggregate their buying power in order to purchase materials at a better rate — putting them on par with big-name rivals like SolarCity and Sunrun.

This type of cooperative model, distinguished by democratic governance and member's shared values, is well-tested in other industries. Some communities rely on a similar model to support group purchasing of solar equipment. Ace and True Value hardware stores are some of the most recognizable examples of the strategy, with each store independently owned but part of a purchasing network. More than a half-decade into Amicus' run, it's delivering results in the solar industry as well.

Today, Amicus has 40 member-companies in its fold, spread across 28 states and into Puerto Rico and Canada, Stephen Irvin, its president, said in a recent conversation with John Farrell, who heads the Energy Democracy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. In addition, Irvin said, Amicus is branching into cooperative lending with a credit union focused on clean energy investments.

Authors: Karlee Weinmann, John Farrell

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