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Model RFP for Third-Party Solar

Minneapolis, Champlin, Forest Lake Area Schools, Lester Prairie, Dakota County, Waconia Public Schools. What do these local governments and schools districts have in common? They are just a sample of public entities that have utilized third-party financing as a means to place solar arrays on their facilities.

Third-party financing can be a tool for public entities to tap into long-term energy cost savings without requiring large up-front capital expenditures. Many Minnesota jurisdictions, including cities and schools, have utilized this approach to advance their clean energy goals; this resource is designed to equip jurisdictions with a process to get apples to apples comparisons from potential developers. Of course, as with any solar project, jurisdictions should talk with their local utility upfront to ensure they'll sign off on this type of arrangement, learn about potential energy conservation measures, and available rebates and incentives. 

Local governments and schools are great locations for solar: large, flat roofs, lots of expensive electrical load, a commitment to sustainability, and a guarantee that they’ll never go out of business. However, since governments can’t take advantage of federal tax credits for solar, the projects often don’t pencil out financially.

Third-party financing is a popular means to overcome this barrier. It occurs in two forms: solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs). In the lease model, a customer pays a fixed amount over a set period of time. In the PPA model, the customer pays a fixed price per kWh for power generated. The kWh rate is typically lower than the local utility rate. In both cases, the third-party company owns, operates, and maintains the solar array and can tap into tax benefits not available to the public sector.

Another barrier is the complex nature of long term utility contracts. Local government and school officials are being asked to review proposals that are not apples-to-apples comparisons. Proposals can vary in array size and location, PPA rate and term, technologies utilized, and more.

With this in mind, CERTs collaborated with the City of Woodbury and KFIEngineering to develop a model Request for Proposals (RFP) that will enable local governments and school districts to more easily compare proposals. The model RFP contains traditional RFP language about the responders experience, qualifications, project scope, and schedule while also providing a comprehensive overview of technical specifications, site utility use, energy generation estimates, and more.

“Solar offers a great chance to be both financially responsible and good stewards of the environment,” said Bob Klatt, Woodbury’s Parks and Recreation Director. “I’m hopeful that lessons learned from our experience will be replicated across the state.”

Fill out the form below to access the RFP and associated documents.

Why are we asking for some contact info? CERTs would like to be able to follow up with you to see how we can help your project move forward. We won’t share your contact info with anyone. Here's what you'll get:

  1. Third-Party Solar Model RFP: The full model RFP to be customized
  2. Attachment A: Allows public entity to compile data on energy use for the specific site(s) included in the RFP
  3. RFP Guidance: Notes on how to use the model RFP and attachment documents
  4. Example Woodbury RFP: The City of Woodbury was willing to share their RFP as an example for others
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More Resources

Beyond our RFP, a number of resources are available for local governments wishing to go down this path, including:

Spreading the Word: A component to any successful RFP is to widely disperse the document. CERTs can assist in this effort by distributing the RFP to solar companies participating in the Clean Energy Project Builder.