Our customers benefit from faster turnaround times due to CAD in Solar.
Serving customers with industry expertise and efficiency is always our goal at Solar Power of Oklahoma. We recently added two technical school graduates to our team in charge of streamlining internal processes: Noah Beall, technical development manager, and Taylor Cusher, CAD in solar designer, are some of our new hires responsible for processes that result in improved operations.
“Our customers benefit from faster turnaround times and better on-site service. We’ve tripled our staff over the past year, and Noah and Taylor are two of the skilled professionals who have made it possible for us to keep work in-house,” said J.W. Peters, SPO president. “Avoiding third parties that take more time and often cost more, allows us to pass the savings along to our customers.”
Coordinating installations on homes and businesses throughout the state, with permits in place and all technical specifications accounted for, is part of the planning SPO employees do each day.
Noah Beall and Taylor Cusher shared their career perspectives with a question and answer session.
Profile: Noah Beall, technical development manager
Time with SPO: Two years
Education and experience: Beall was homeschooled during high school and began working under a licensed electrician at age 15. He enrolled in the electrical trades program at Canadian Valley Technology Center during his senior year with two years of job experience. He continued working construction part-time and completed the technical school’s two-year program in just one year. His goal was to become an unlimited electrical journeyman, which requires 8,000 work hours as an electrical apprentice. Beall was employed part-time and also completed bookwork over the next five years before completing state licensure with a certification exam from the Oklahoma Construction Industries Board in June 2020.
In Beall’s words:
Q. What does your role include at SPO?
- What I do now covers a lot of technical bases at SPO. I am tasked with developing the installation, sales and internal operations teams. With sales, we have to have some guys and gals on the sales side who are technically proficient.
My first project was to create training programs for all of our teams to better understand what we install, why we install those products specifically and best practices for every facet of the installation. I also help with project research, figuring out what products are the best, from solar modules and inverters to racking. I’ve studied how to improve what we do on a daily basis, looking for what is affordable but the same quality or to save labor for our installers in the field. In addition, I work directly with our service teams to get into really technical details to get the job done right, which requires a lot of reading, watching videos and taking the time to know our products inside out.
Q. How does your role better serve SPO’s customers?
- It does not serve the customer to offer the same solution for diverse needs. Some are looking for ways to be as green as possible, others want to live off the grid while some of our customers want to install solar power as cost-effectively as possible. We went from selling one piece of equipment to offering multiple products. Different systems are required for those different project needs. Shifting project choices sets us up for success. We always want to find what is best for the customer.
We design every single project and how it is installed. We plan the roof layout and draft all of our own engineered documents that we have to submit to municipal boards with the city and the local electrical provider.
By keeping the design process in-house, we avoid using a third party, which represents a cost savings as well as a time savings. Hiring people who are extremely skilled and specialized in CAD design has been beneficial, especially because we can do it at scale. We design every project in-house before we even think about going to install it.
When we were using third party companies for design work, it would take three to four weeks just to get the plans back. We now consider that timeframe unacceptable. With Taylor Cusher, our internal CAD designer, it takes about 30 minutes to finalize a plan we can show to the homeowner for approval. Working with her has meant a massive help for the operations side. The moment we get that contract signed, we can draw up plans and move forward.
Q. What do you anticipate in terms of growth at SPO?
- Business never slows down. It is likely our team will continue to grow to meet additional needs. I’m sure our management team would agree hiring will likely take place in the first quarter of 2023. In 2022, our team grew from around 20 people to nearly 60. They oversee our growth effectively and at our team meetings, they tell the employees there is an upward path for every single person here, with this industry being the way it is.
Q. How does being a certified journeyman advance your career?
- What the license allows you to do is act as a boss within a job site. That supervisory role means higher pay and more responsibility, with as many as three electrical apprentices assigned. Apprentices cannot go on a job site and do work without a journeyman present, who helps push the project forward.
Opportunities are limitless as a journeyman, with jobs available all over the world. There is a constant demand for licensed professionals in the field.
Q. What advice would you give students who are considering a career in your field?
- If you are looking for a way to make good money and provide for yourself and your family, being a licensed journeyman is an excellent option. Consider the employment and earning rates out of technical school versus directly out of college. Jumping into a trade has been one of the most rewarding choices I have ever made.
As a high school student, I was worried that if I decided to push college off for a few years, I would not make anything of myself. I was looking for something hands-on, but my fear was if I decided it wasn’t for me, I would have fallen behind my peers. So, don’t be afraid to do something different than all your friends are doing. A trade can be extremely rewarding. Put the work in and you’ll be so much further along.
My first year as an apprentice was in July 2015 and I just remember it being 110 degrees F. outside when I was on the business end of a shovel 10 hours a day, six days a week doing dirt work. It was brutal and just not an enjoyable experience. I remember wanting to quit. So this made my advice be; even when things get really hard — and they will — press on. Complete your technical education and you will never be out of a job. Even if you go on to do something different, you will have skills you can use for home repairs or to make money if need be.
Profile: Taylor Cusher, CAD designer
Time with SPO: One month
Education and experience: Cusher graduated from Moore High School in 2018. She completed Moore Norman Technology Center’s CAD program in May 2022 but has been active in the profession since 2019.
In Cusher’s words:
Q. How does having CAD design services in-house streamline the process for Solar Power of Oklahoma’s customers?
- By offering services in-house, we are not waiting for an engineer and a drafter to make time for us. We can make a basic template and add updates rather than having to send off an entire project and wait.
Moving the process into our own office makes things incredibly fast. For instance, Once the project goes to the customer, the utility company and the city for permitting purposes, we can make any necessary changes the same day.
Q. What do you enjoy most about CAD design and, more specifically, your role at SPO?
- I love designing ideas and bringing them to life. At SPO, the atmosphere is incredible, the owners are fantastic and the workload is manageable. They are helpful and it is a collaborative environment.
Q. What characteristics make for an ideal fit to do CAD design?
- CAD design can be the perfect way to apply those skills without pursuing engineering and architecture.
Q. What advice would you give students who are considering a career in your field?
- Check into special programs and financing options. Opportunities exist to attend free of charge for Oklahoma graduates of Moore, Norman and certain other high schools who enroll before age 21. Adult students are also allowed to attend on a fee-based model. Be aware of your options, which are typically to attend part-time for two years or full-time for one year.
Q. Overall, where do you see the future of your field?
- CAD designers will be needed in the future for earth-friendly everything. It will continue to be a profession in demand for generations.