Solar Cutters build a community to slash poor quality PV installations, components

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pv magazine Australia: With the integrity of some actors in the solar industry coming under question in recent years, Solar Cutters and its “Cutter Commandments” has been encouraging solar people to join its community. How did Solar Cutters come about and why? 

Jack Long: Honestly, it originally it started as a bit of a joke when we used the hashtag #solarcutters on some pictures, memes and posts. The name Solar Cutters amongst other things was partially inspired by the Simpsons episode where Homer joins a secret society, based on the Freemasons, called the Stonecutters.

Kosta Bourandanis: We formed Solar Cutters via solar social media and it aims to establish a community of likeminded professionals who are authentic and enthusiastic about influencing change within the solar industry. We believe community, healthy competition, quality workmanship, support, continual improvement and collaboration are at the core. Solar Cutters is for the industry and the people within it, which was a key driver in starting and privately funding this community.

What are some of the problems in the industry that Solar Cutters is endeavouring to right? 

Jack: There are many issues within the industry we are currently lobbying for but first and foremost – quality installations. We want to raise the standard of solar installations within Australia and hopefully one day the world. This is the key goal we want to achieve as a community.

Kosta: We also find that government incentives often bring out some questionable sales tactics and dishonest operators who, in-turn, rip off customers with substandard and potentially unsafe hardware and installations. This is our major focus and without the trust of the wider community there really is no future for solar. We need to ensure customers feel like they are getting a quality system from an expert every time, and for that reason we need to emphasize the distinction between “quality” solar and “crap” solar.

 Was there a particular occasion or experience that you feel necessitated the creation of Solar Cutters? 

Jack: To be honest, the online collaborative community needed a name that reflected the movement, and it was really the overwhelming amount of like-minded professionals which started referencing the phrase “cutters”, and that led to its creation.

What is “cutterspec” solar? 

Jack: ‘Cutterspec’ renewable solutions is a term we frequently use to describe a truly high-quality installation, it’s not really something specific. It’s an installation completed with the incorporation of the cutter commandments. This starts with the sales team being honest and ethical with the customer at all times, to the install being certified, accredited, professional, using quality products, and with great care and support given to the after sales process.

Kosta: Exactly, it’s only ‘cutterspec’ if it’s truly a professional install of a quality system with the customer left satisfied.

Solar Cutters pledges to be at the forefront of new technologies and innovations, what new technologies and innovations in the solar industry are exciting the Solar Cutters community today? 

Jack: Solar Cutters trusts that operators are recommending, quoting and installing quality products and it is a requirement of being a cutter that you do so – aligned to the commandments.

Kosta: Solar Cutters aims to be for quality manufacturers, but it’s product agnostic – we don’t call out particular technologies or companies that we think you should use. We provide the knowledge and assistance on the current quality products, whilst supporting manufacturers that support the industry and community ethically.

You mention after-sales service, why is this so important? 

Kosta: This really comes back to a belief solar needs to be an ethical and reliable end-to-end service. From sale, to install, to after-sales service; whether that’s organising to revisit if something wasn’t done correctly on install, to assisting the customer with their monitoring of their inverter, or aiding them with faulty stock and servicing a warranty.

Jack: A company needs to be able to do all of these to be ‘cutter spec’ which is the standard we are driving for with the community

Many “Cutters” exalt the shared knowledge and experience among the community, could you provide an example where “Cutters” have helped each other? 

Jack: It happens almost daily on the “Solar Cutters Working Together” page – like-minded professionals asking questions, for advice and recommendations. We encourage a competitive market, as should all industries, but to be a company or solar professional means sometimes even competitors helping competitors. We have seen this occur many times and we don’t believe it was as prevalent a few years ago.

Kosta: Another major area is the ‘Cutter’ network of referrals, cutters asking for other cutters in specific areas as they may have family or friends who they want to get a quality system, but they don’t know anyone in the area who does a decent install. We see this happen all the time and it’s a credit to the industry and the Solar Cutters community.

Solar Cutters pledges to uphold and advocate for “quality within the industry”, in terms of solar equipment, panels, inverters, trackers, batteries, what quality products does Solar Cutters advocate for and why? 

 Jack: Solar cutters doesn’t like to associate with any one kind of product or organisation, we aren’t in it for the big companies, we’re for the everyday people and the industry as a whole.
Kosta: We don’t necessarily advocate for any one product or products, but what we can do is call out installs that have been completed with substandard hardware, dangerous install or just customers getting taking advantage of and even ripped-off. We are looking to collaborate in the future, but for now our aim is really just to help clean the industry up as much as we can before we look to the future.

So, it’s a community of grassroots people from the solar industry who have banded together to amplify their voice, what does your community want to say?  

Jack: Solar is a reliable investment for current and future generations, one that can reduce your power bill and save you money, but also one that helps you do your part for the environment and the sustainability of our planet. Whilst the industry may still have a few cowboys, only with the support of the industry and its people can our community grow and flourish for many years to come.

Solar Cutters is in the process of publishing its first Newsletter next month, can you tell us about what the newsletter entails?

Kosta: The newsletterwill be a bit of an overview of the industry and will have a few different articles from various media outlets (such as this article) whilst still having a few humorous pictures and fun anecdotes in the true spirit of the cutters

What does the future hold for Solar Cutters? 

Kosta: We are hoping for quite a bit more for the rest of 2019 as we close in on nearly 2 years since our establishment with an extra focus being on taking Solar Cutters to the next level through various initiatives being worked on in the background with our Solar Cutters Committee.

We are starting a newsletter very soon, register at SolarCutters.comif you’re interested. We’re also hoping to begin to collaborate with more organizations and groups as we continue to grow. Memberships, the CutterLog, training and more events are some of the ideas on the agenda for Solar Cutters over the next 6-12 months

Jack: Again for this year we are having our Solar Cutters Awards Night on Tuesday October 22nd already booked in for the night before All Energy in Melbourne, which exceeded capacity last year, and which we believe will be even bigger in 2019.

As always we have the industry and our community at heart and will be focusing our attention on growing the movement, both on social media and externally, and how we bring the message of Solar Cutters and the Commandments to all solar businesses throughout Australia and hopefully even internationally!

Interview by Blake Matich