Interview with RPCS’s Founder and CEO Eben Russell (Energy CIO Insights Magazine)

By February 7, 2019News
Eb Russell

RPCS Founder and CEO Eben Russell

Energy CIO Insights is on a constant quest to identify the emerging players in the technology and energy landscape and showcase their expertise, products, services, and solutions in solving impediments and overcoming market complexities.

RPCS was named a 2018 Top 10 Renewable Energy Services Company following a year of explosive growth and impressive achievements and was featured at length in their annual edition on renewable energy in January of 2019.

With a feature in the magazine and an interview conducted with RPCS Founder and CEO Eben Russell, Energy CIO Insights aims to allow readers to develop a thorough understanding of RPCS and its value proposition within the renewable energy sector.

Russell’s responses demonstrate the leadership role RPCS plays in addressing customers’ needs within the renewable energy industry and provide insights into the strengths, vision, and roadmap of the company as well as how RPCS is innovating in the ground mount solar market.

 

Energy CIO Insights: What is RPCS’s current focus?

Eben Russell: The project execution model for investors is maturing. Investors have become more confident they will recognize the modeled returns because they now have real project performance data to confirm the models rather than solely relying on theoretical, performance modeling software.  There is also real, historic product reliability data. The PV industry startups of the past decade have either gone away, been acquired by larger, well-capitalized parents or grown into large, well-capitalized companies on their own right. The ITC for non-residential solar is ratcheting downwards over the next 3 years to 10% to begin 2022 so investment will shift away from tax equity and into pure play IPPs seeking long term ownership.

 

Energy CIO Insights: What are some of the trends that you expect to have an impact in the renewable energy solution arena this year, and how is RPCS planning to leverage these trends and evolve?

Russell: With this shift, IPPs will no longer seek larger, higher margin EPCs to backstop the equipment, construction, and performance risk and the transaction/development cycle can be a lot shorter.  IPPs are engineering, procuring the major equipment and construction managing themselves a few reliable trades (civil, mechanical, electrical) to be their project partners. RPCS is well positioned to be the IPPs mechanical partner to provide turnkey layout, engineering, down-to- the-part level procurement of the tracking system, tracker installation, commissioning, full wrap tracker warranty (including labor AND material), and tracker O&M services.

 

Energy CIO Insights: In your interactions with CIOs of leading companies, what sense do you get of the challenges they face now in the renewable energy solution space and how is RPCS effectively addressing these issues?

Russell: While there are still a number of very large single sites being developed and constructed (50+MWs), IPPs are challenged to sustain their asset growth by building high numbers of small projects spread all over the county. Being able to properly design, procure, and construction manage so many small projects simultaneously is a major challenge. RPCS employs a mobile work force that has mastered the site management and construction of a single, leading market product so deployment is simple and repeatable and the IPPs can receive the same quality of construction anywhere with very little oversight.

 

Energy CIO Insights: RPCS is the distributed utility market’s provider for Array Technologies DuraTrack® HZ v3 single axis tracker projects. As Array’s trusted partner, RPCS provides complete turnkey project design and mechanical installation services for the industry’s proven gold standard in solar tracking solutions. Please elaborate on this and walk us through your solutions on the basis of its methodology, features, and benefits involved. 

Russell: Perhaps the easiest way to convey is to compare to another market. Tracker manufacturers are like satellite dish manufacturers. RPCS offers DirectTV. RPCS starts with a blank canvas of earth, analyzes the topography, lays out the tracker in the most cost effective and constructible manner, performs all the requisite engineering studies for the foundations, incorporates all the engineering for the foundations and tracker system into one engineering package for the company, properly fulfills the order down to the last nut and bolt, packs and ships for the optimal receiving and requisition on site, installs the system, and commissions the system.

 

Energy CIO Insights: Could you please cite one or two case studies on how you have enabled clients to overcome hurdles and attain desired outcomes with your innovative array of solutions?

Russell: One site that comes to mind is the 5MW project at the California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly). Because of the highly undulating terrain, most bidders assumed fixed tilt was the only option. Our customer was willing to allow us to assess the potential for trackers. Our engineers did a detailed topo analysis, shot lasers across the grade, confirmed that our tracker could be installed within its grading tolerance and with the significantly higher ROIs trackers offered over fixed tilt, our customer won the bid. We then installed as promised. During construction, an unforeseen issue arose—the sound of pile drivers sending horses at a neighboring farm into a frenzy. We immediately remediated with some specialized equipment and finished the project on time.

 

Energy CIO Insights: There are a number of companies out there that are vying for the top position. What are the strategies employed by RPCS to thwart the market competition, and what according to you are the distinct features/differentiating factors of RPCS that give the company a competitive edge?

Russell: We start with the best product in the market. After that, we are using custom apps so we can real-time monitor so many projects running simultaneously all over the county and ensure schedules are met while maintaining safety. This description is vague intentionally!

 

Energy CIO Insights: What does the future hold for your organization? Any footprint expansion plans or platform enhancement strategies that you can shed light upon?

Russell: We are constantly developing our methods for material and crew deployment so that jobs are built on time. Using apps on mobile devices puts information into the field and streamlines jobsite progress and reporting.

 

See our press release on being awarded Top 10 Renewable Energy Services Company of 2018 >

 

RPCS designs and builds ground mount solar projects using the industry’s gold standard for quality, the Array Technologies DuraTrack® HZ v3 single-axis tracker. With over 550 MW and over 260 projects completed or under construction throughout the United States, RPCS provides full turnkey service and support for the industry’s most bankable and reliable tracker. RPCS’s expert knowledge of Array Technologies’ trackers ensures world class turnkey project assistance including site layout optimization, ancillary engineering services, tracker and foundation procurement, and complete mechanical installation. The team at RPCS provides reliable support at every step of the project, delivering a level of quality and efficiency that parallels Array’s market reputation. For more information about RPCS, please visit rpcs.com or call us at 831.620.2188.