SunLink expands PowerCare services to the Northeast

SunLink PowerCare

SunLink project in Sheffield, Mass.

Highlighting the demand for its solar engineering, installation and O&M services for EPCs in the mid-range fixed tilt and tracker market nationwide, the PowerCare team from SunLink Corporation has expanded its installation services into the Northeastern United States.

PowerCare recently completed installation services on a GeoPro project in Sheffield, Mass., is currently installing at a second GeoPro project across the state in Plymouth and is gearing up for 10 more projects in Massachusetts and Vermont in 2016. Simultaneously, the PowerCare team is also executing solar project services in North Carolina, Nevada and California.

“The mid-range tracker and fixed tilt ground-mount market is frequently neglected as mid-range projects tend to be beyond the capabilities of small or residential installers yet not large enough to attract the interest of most large EPCs,” explains Keith Beisner, head of SunLink’s PowerCare program. “By taking on installation and O&M of our fixed tilt and tracker products, our goal is to help our customers efficiently and successfully add projects in that range to their portfolio. In essence, we want to help them do more MWs.”

RELATED: On the Scene: SunLink’s new service approach uses tech industry blueprint 

While the company’s partners remain focused on their core business, the SunLink team is able to provide:

  • Fixed tilt and tracking mounting systems that can be quickly configured to meet a wide-range of site conditions
  • Layout tools that efficiently optimize how the array fits the site
  • Short delivery lead times
  • PowerCare geotechnical engineering, with more than 1 GW of load testing experience
  • PowerCare field teams that can be quickly mobilized to provide expert SunLink system installation services and who have the know-how to troubleshoot on the fly and keep projects moving forward
  • Reliable, data-driven O&M for the life of the project through the VERTEX Project Intelligence Platform

EPCs who partner with SunLink for the design, delivery, installation and maintenance of the racking system benefit from the company’s full engineering, installation and O&M capabilities. The resulting efficiencies pull in schedules and lower costs, enabling consecutive, simultaneous or large portfolios of mid-size projects to be delivered seamlessly and more quickly.

Click here to learn more.

— Solar Builder magazine

On the Scene: SunLink’s new service approach uses tech industry blueprint

The “link” in SunLink used to just refer to its racking system, seen here.

The “link” in SunLink used to just refer to its racking system, seen here.

To understand where the solar industry is about to go over the next five, 10, 20 years, one might look at the tech industry. Fall down this rabbit hole for a minute: Technology companies started by producing their products and selling those products to customers. IBM, for example, made computers. But over time, the technology and industry evolved, and so to did the value proposition of what those tech companies were offering. Suddenly, instead of supplying a widget, the industry is full of solution and service providers. IBM now provides solutions to banks or manufacturers or whomever to better their business.

Now consider the solar industry again. Over here, a company is selling an inverter. Over there, a company is selling wires. Someone else is supplying the racking and someone else the panels. Someone is in charge of rounding up all of those components. Someone else is in charge of the engineering. Someone else is going to take everything and install it.

And really, this model works. The solar industry reduced overall costs enough that the average price of installing solar has dropped by more than 50 percent over the past five years. But with the shadow of the ITC looming over the coming year, and concerns about how to make up that potential 20 percent gap, well, more all-in-one solution providers might make sense.

This is the vision SunLink CEO Michael Maulick has for the solar industry, which is influencing the plans he has in store for SunLink. We discussed all of these plans during our visit to the company headquarters in San Leandro, Calif.

“Think about microprocessors and how quickly they grew and ramped up and doubled in price performance every 18 months,” Maulick says. “If you do that same curve for solar, it is moving at a snail’s pace. That tells me something because there’s no doubt it’s the right thing.”

RELATED: SunLink to build out PowerCare security tech with new exec hire 

The name SunLink perfectly, and unintentionally, embodies this transition. The “link” in SunLink, at the beginning referred to how its products functioned — SunLink was a racking manufacturer and its products linked together. But now as the company looks ahead that “link” points to its complete services offering that connects project components that are often handled by disparate third parties.

These services start with PowerCare, its department that handles engineering, project management and field service management. The capabilities of PowerCare have recently been expanded to include StrongLink installation and SureLink operations and maintenance services.

The SureLink suite of smart device applications includes tracker technology acquired from ViaSol Trackers.

The SureLink suite of smart device applications includes tracker technology acquired from ViaSol Trackers.

StrongLink includes the full-range of turn-key installation services, including geotechnical/pre-project pull testing, post driving, on-site ballast casting, prepanelization, mechanical installation and/or module installation. So, why turn to SunLink to handle these tasks vs. other subcontractors? Essentially it’s the old “too many cooks in the kitchen” argument. A simplified process with fewer parties involved could benefit the developer and the manufacturer. Utilizing the services under the PowerCare umbrella provides one team formulating a plan and executing it with a standard product line. Miscommunication is mostly eliminated. And hey, maybe a developer can take on additional projects now that project hassles and risk are reduced.

Customers are assigned a dedicated project manager who serves as a single point of contact capable of facilitating:

• Technical analysis, pile driving and mechanical installation;

• Logistics setup and documentation of material shipments;

• Delivery and shipment arrivals coordination;

• On-site material acceptance, including part count; and

• On-site support for layout, design and installation.

“For the installers and the EPCs, we want to provide a solution that makes their job easier, more efficient and move further up the food chain,” Maulick says. “Sometimes that will get misconstrued as replacing them, but that’s not the intent. We want to make an installer go quicker and maybe charge and do more.”

SureLink then covers the end of the line, with a combination of on-the-ground O&M services and software diagnostics with remote capabilities. A key component that links (couldn’t help myself) the SureLink suite of smart device applications is a more robust tracker technology that the company acquired from ViaSol Trackers. For example, the same diagnostics app that commissions and remotely controls the trackers will also trigger smart maintenance alerts should performance issues arise.

RELATED: SunLink expands PowerCare program into installation, O&M services 

Side note about the tracker: Its controller box can include storage capabilities that would further reduce BOS costs.

In addition, SunLink has formed a strategic partnership with MaxGen Energy Services, the power plant service arm of the largest independent solar O&M company in the United States, Solarrus Corp., to provide full-scope O&M field services to SunLink customers under a single SunLink contract.

There’s also SunLink’s original specialty — the mounting product line. A notable element here is the flexibility that allows for multiple foundations within a single system. During installation, if you have been using all helical piles, but then run into an issue, just swap in a cast-in-place in that spot.

SunLink is investing significant human and financial resources in response to the industry’s need for solar energy stability and the even more pressing national and global demand to reduce grid-related security vulnerabilities.

SunLink Corp. announced the addition of James Ray as vice president of software engineering. Ray brings a wealth of experience from the financial security space and will play a big role in expanding the suite of PowerCare services, including intelligent, next-generation SCADA solutions built for electrical grid security, manageability and stability that represent a convergence of proven technologies and industry innovation.

That leads to the last link Maulick shared with us: Linking its innovations to the industry at large. He believes the only way for solar to ascend to higher heights on a trajectory similar to the tech industry is with collaboration.

“We are designing with an open system [REST API] so we can encourage everybody to be developing for the benefit of the industry,” he explains. “REST API is what enabled Amazon to broaden its services, which is changing the tech industry.”

— Solar Builder magazine

SunLink to build out PowerCare security tech with new exec hire

SunLink Corp. continues to grow its executive strength with the addition of James Ray as vice president of software engineering. Ray brings a wealth of experience from the financial security space and joins SunLink at the perfect time as the company rolls out its expanded suite of PowerCare services, including intelligent, next-generation SCADA solutions built for electrical grid security, manageability and stability that represent a convergence of proven technologies and industry innovation.

SunLink is investing significant human and financial resources in response to the industry’s need for solar energy stability and the even more pressing national and global demand to reduce grid-related security vulnerabilities. The platform Ray’s team is building incorporates tokenization, data analytics and elements of machine learning to bring the operations and maintenance (O&M) for solar installations to a new level. These solutions will provide security rivaling that employed by financial institutions together with advanced sensing technology and analytics for superior business intelligence.

SunLink PowerCare security“There are substantial parallels between the technology and solar sectors, and the convergence of the two will propel solar forward much faster than it is currently progressing. By leveraging James’ proven expertise in financial security technology, SunLink is able to leapfrog our development of the technology platforms our industry so desperately needs,” explains SunLink CEO Michael Maulick. “As an energy solutions company, SunLink is committed to solving the challenges to widespread solar adoption, both physically and politically. I firmly believe some of the key catalysts for growth in our industry are the proper integration, operation, security and monitoring of grid resources. We’re very excited to have James’ expertise on the team to lead our efforts.”

RELATED: SunLink expands PowerCare program into installation, O&M services 

“The key is to create a secure platform that maintains an open environment and can coexist with SCADA systems without security risks,” Maulick continues. “James is well versed in what has impeded the financial industry’s quest for new technologies like EMV and tokenization. That’s why his expertise is so valuable to SunLink and the solar industry as a whole – because we can leverage lessons already learned to implement tokenization in scale ahead of the financial sector. For example, thanks to Siemens’ (SIEGY) long-standing efforts to provide consistency, the number of barriers to achieve the same results in energy is very low. The energy industry just needs an innovation jump start on this front, and we’re eager to provide one!”

Prior to joining SunLink, Ray served as founder and CEO of financial services consulting company, IdeasX, consulting for several Fortune 500 companies and large, multi-national banking institutions. Before that, he was the president and CEO of Size Technologies until the company was acquired by First Data in January of 2007, and he continued to run First Data’s San Francisco office after the acquisition during which time he developed several new profit lines of business for them. Previous roles included president and chief technology officer at DoughNET.com, and CTO and COO for global advertising agency Publicis & Hal Riney.

“I see a tremendous opportunity for SunLink to continue to advance the solar industry by retrofitting the scalable, cost effective and secure systems I have dedicated my career to implementing in the financial sector,” Ray said. “With solar penetration on the grid increasing at a rapid pace and grid security playing such a significant role in national security, it’s essential that the solar industry employ the same sorts of control mechanisms and security protocols that the financial industry relies on to protect our financial infrastructure. I’m excited to help SunLink advance the energy industry in this regard.”

— Solar Builder magazine