Southern Current is a solar developer and engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina. While it can be challenging to find employees in the region with significant solar experience, Southern Current will often hire entry-level employees and provide training.
As a market leader that operates in 10 states with nearly $450 million in investment in 500 MW to date, Southern Current takes a “whole process” approach to solar. That means they are engaged from project development through construction and financing.
The development division specializes in developing utility-scale systems, while the EPC division installs residential, nonresidential, and utility-scale projects. The EPC division is mostly used to execute the company’s own utility-scale development projects along with its smaller installations, but also provides contracting services to national developers seeking expertise in the Carolinas.
Permitting is easily the most labor-intensive aspect of Southern Current’s work and requires every department to get involved. As a result, the company relies on development professionals who become experts on the zoning and permitting procedures for relevant jurisdictions. A development professional’s expertise is demanded in every stage of a project, from early strategic development to project interconnection. Additional roles on the EPC team include engineers, procurement experts, a sales and operations team, project managers, and installation crews.
Southern Current’s workforce has grown immensely over the past few years, particularly the EPC division. Since 2016, it has more than tripled the size of the engineering department and added dozens of field employees and project managers to accommodate increased project volume. In addition to hiring new workers, “we have also added more complexity to our employees’ roles to continue to be a dynamic, forward-thinking company,” says John Wilson, Design Project Manager.
As Southern Current expands its workforce, hiring employees can be tough because solar is a nascent industry in the Southeast. Rather than looking for specific experience, “we look more to how we can develop new hires and are willing to take less experience so we can train and develop employees’ skill sets from within,” says Greg White, Chief EPC officer.
The biggest challenge Wilson faces as a project manager is when technologies change over the progression of a project. For example, solar components could be outdated between the time a project is initiated and when construction begins. “In order to ensure each system has the greatest economic feasibility and system performance, we must constantly reevaluate our system designs for any given project, as system component technology is always changing,” Wilson says.