Swinerton Renewable Energy is an installation contracting firm focused on building utility-scale ground mounts and commercial solar projects, with an additional service specializing in operations and maintenance. Whenever possible, Swinerton contracts with local workers to complete its solar projects across the U.S.
Swinerton Renewable Energy offers two main service categories: engineering, procurement and construction (EPC), and SOLV, their operations and maintenance services. The EPC team is typically contracted by developers seeking to build utility-scale or commercial solar systems. The SOLV team offers continuous monitoring of all Swinerton systems, which includes a 24-hour operations and control center and expert staff who respond to any maintenance needs.
Swinerton’s EPC group has offices in San Diego, California; San Francisco, California; and Raleigh, North Carolina. Their scope of work includes procurement, engineering, and construction of solar systems. The workforce includes project managers and assistants specializing in procurement, engineering and construction, marketing and administrative teams, field superintendents, and craft employees. Craft employees constitute the bulk of the full-time staff, totaling just under 500 employees who work on-site constructing the solar systems. They travel extensively from job to job, typically out-of-state.
For typical projects, Swinerton hires local workers who make up the vast majority of the onsite workforce. Depending on the state and local regulations, the workforce is either hired through temp agencies or directly from local union halls. The permanent Swinerton craft employees oversee the training of the subcontractors to ensure quality and safety throughout project construction. Michael Stevenson, Assistant Project Manager, estimates that 90% of the workforce on an 80 MW project is hired from the local community, totaling about 300 people who are provided with full-time work for about six months.
The SOLV side of Swinerton has offices in San Diego and Bend, Oregon, along with dozens of satellite offices across the country to provide on-site maintenance services. Their workforce includes employees operating the control center and others providing maintenance services on-site. The SOLV group oversees 315 projects across 20 states, with 100 solar technicians to perform maintenance work. Swinerton is constantly hiring SOLV technicians to support the growing business. “For the last 15 years, the industry has been building and expanding,” Stevenson notes. “The industry is now taking a new step toward operating and maintaining these systems to ensure optimal performance.”
One challenge Swinerton faces is finding labor and equipment for projects. “Typically, when we build a large utility-size solar farm, it is located in an area with a low population, making it difficult to find qualified workers,” says Brandi Pearson, Swinerton’s HR Manager. Especially in heavy coal and oil-producing states, Stevenson adds it is hard to find skilled solar workers compared to states with more established solar industries, such as California and Nevada. To overcome this obstacle, Swinerton is devoted to establishing and fostering local ties in project locations. Throughout the year, Swinerton sponsors events that support active community engagement and give back to the communities they work in.
To support its core staff, Swinerton is dedicated to employee development, growth, and leadership. Swinerton offers extensive learning opportunities to help employees build a skill set and develop their career, including: online classes covering topics from subcontractor management to time management; in-house LEED certification; the “Better Builders” program to provide on-the-job field experience training; leadership development program; and other professional development programs such as peer mentoring. This dedication to employee development and satisfaction is particularly important, Pearson says, due to the extensive travel that is required for craft laborers. Pearson understands the difficulty their craft employees face with extensive travel but says, “we take care of our people and invest heavily in their personal and professional growth.” In fact, Swinerton has been named among Fortune’s “Best Places to Work for Millennials” and “Best Workplaces to Retire From.”