Solar project development requires partnering with an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) provider who values company culture, and in turn, positive customer relationships. Construction naturally uncovers areas of improvement and challenges that are unforeseen. It is near inevitable that project plans, supplier agreements, schedules and jurisdictional oversight will deviate on occasion. How you adapt to these deviations will dictate their impact and overall outcomes on the project, and how you adapt will be driven entirely by the culture of your project team.
What elements of culture are valuable on a project site?
First and foremost is Safety. Construction can be a dangerous job and any project that suffers injuries or worse will cause significant team morale issues. Choose a partner who is deeply committed to the safety of everyone on-site and believes it is the number one priority. If safety is truly priority, it will be put before productivity and work will stop if there are activities putting anyone in danger happening. Another indicator that an EPC values safety is that their pre-construction planning including provides adequate schedule for training all team members on specifics such as local environmental hazards.
Team morale is also incredibly meaningful. When a company treats team members the right way, coming into work is a positive experience that increases productivity and retention. That means respecting the people doing the work as much as the outcome of the work itself. Treating everyone equally and including voice from all levels of the organization should be an expectation to create environments where all team members feel respected and valued.
There are other benefits for cultural engagement. The best ideas for improving efficiency always come from the people doing the work, and by encouraging everyone to speak up when they find a better way to execute the scope of work, all elements of the project improve. Lean, efficient teams will improve the quality of the work performed as well as productivity. They will also cut down the potential issues before they happen, such as when they are able to foresee a shortage of a particular piece of equipment or hardware prior to it becoming an issue. Encouraging team members to lead will lead to improved outcomes.
Lastly communication is critical to culture. This relates to above situations of improvement, but perhaps even more importantly between the builder and the owner of a project. Alignment between leaders of partnering companies provides a common ground of understanding and expectation for executing the work and collaboration needed for successful projects. Often times the separate elements of building a solar project will require one organization to acquire hardware and the other to install it within a tight timeframe to meet a commercial operation date (COD). When there is transparent communication between the groups, resolving unforeseen issues becomes a simple and stress-free discussion.
All these elements of culture may sound obvious, however in practice they take considerable expertise. Managing hundreds of team members, scopes of work, suppliers, and other elements of a solar project are already challenging and will only become more so as the size and complexity of the technology proliferate. It is important to choose a partner that is both able to balance these fundamentals while having leadership alignment and common understanding of what success looks like.