While many people associate cooperatives with a place for hippies to buy organic food, the cooperative movement has actually grown far and wide, creating sustainable enterprises that generate jobs and strengthen local economies.
Cooperatives come in various forms, from consumer-owned to worker-owned to purchasing cooperatives. In a purchasing cooperative individual businesses band together to enhance their purchasing power. Two of the better-known purchasing coops are Ace Hardware and Best Western hotels. One example of a solar energy purchasing cooperative is Amicus, founded in 2011 when a small group of solar installation companies decided to support each other by sharing best practices and pooling their buying power.
Amicus is jointly owned by its 30 independently owned and operated PV installation member companies from across the United States. Member companies range from California’s oldest solar company, Sun Light & Power, to the small solar integrator Radiance Solar in Atlanta, Georgia. Amicus members get lower pricing on products as well as distributed cash dividends based on the amount of total purchases each member makes. And they share expertise and information that often cannot be found at any industry trade show or vendor conference.
The Mt. Pleasant Solar Cooperative is a group of over 300 households in the Mt. Pleasant community of Washington, D.C. The founders of the co-op wanted to put solar on their roof and decided if they were going to go through all the work to figure out how to install photovoltaics, they would have more impact by including more people in the project. They also wanted to reduce the costs of the solar systems, and figured that a bulk purchase, along with sharing expenses and expertise, would significantly bring down the price.