Moving Forward

Public Solar Procurement

Making Solar Possible

 

Whether it be to achieve environmental goals, reduce energy costs, create clean energy jobs, or show community leadership, solar can provide measurable benefits. The tools and resources here are intended to help state agencies, local governments, and schools move forward with solar procurement.

These tools and resources were developed and refined by the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs), Great Plains Institute, and the Minnesota Department of Administration's Office of Enterprise Sustainability as part of a joint effort called Solar Possible.

 

Step-by-Step Guide to Solar Procurement

  1. You can get a sense for the solar resource at your site using the Minnesota Solar Suitability App.
  2. If you are considering solar on a building that hasn’t yet been constructed, you may need to conduct an energy model and you should ensure that the building is built solar-ready. You can start with resources from Grow Solar and the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
  3. The Solar Site Assessment Checklist includes other things to consider, like what sort of other equipment is on your roof.
  4. Our Clean Energy Project Builder directory provides solar installers that you can consider working with who should start by providing you with a detailed site assessment.
  5. If you don't have a good site, you might consider buying renewable energy from your utility or subscribing to a community solar garden.

Download

Solar Site Assessment Checklist

It’s important to check in with your local city and county about ordinances that might be in place that would impact your solar project. Some require setbacks or structural assessments, for instance. Your solar installer should have a good handle on this process, but it’s worth knowing in advance.

Installers should be able to provide a good cost estimate for a project you’re considering, and incentives can make solar more affordable. A Federal Tax Credit can cover up to 30% of the project cost and some utilities offer rebates, too.

Compare bids from several solar contractors through a request for proposals.

Option 1: Get bids using the CERTs third-party solar RFP template

  1. CERTs has a Model RFP for Third-Party Solar that you can download and adapt to issue your own request.
  2. You can use the Clean Energy Project Builder directory to help you search for solar installers, or ask CERTs to send your RFP to developers.
  3. We also provide a useful set of questions that you can ask companies.

Option 2: Get bids through the State of Minnesota Master Contract

If your site is within Xcel Energy territory, you may be interested in using the Master Contract through the State of Minnesota’s Office of State Procurement. See the downloads below to explore this option.

State Master Contract Downloads

One-page Overview
RFP Checklist
RFP Template
Example Project Evaluation
Site-Specific Work Order Template
Guidance for Work Orders
Example: Stassen Building
Example: AIA

Review and evaluate the proposals you receive based on your goals and budget. For an apples-to-apples comparison of financed proposals, you can use you can use the Solar PPA calculator (Xcel version or non-Xcel version). The calculator compares bids and provides an estimate of costs and savings over the term of the contract

Downloads

PPA Calculator for Xcel
PPA Calculator for non-Xcel

Tutorial video for using solar PPA calculator

  1. Sign a contract and install your system. It usually takes from two weeks to two months from the time you sign an agreement to the time a project is completed, depending on the type of solar technology and the incentive process.
  2. If installing PV, your contractor will facilitate an interconnection agreement with your electric utility that will allow you to track your production and get paid for excess production with net metering.

You could be inspiration for others! Tell your neighbors, family, friends, colleagues, and local media outlets about your experience so they know how easy and rewarding it is to go solar. You might be surprised how influential you are!

How do I know if my building is right for solar?

There are several components to solar suitability: the solar resource of the location, the size of the unobstructed space for solar, and many other technical components. To begin, the solar site assessment resources lists many solar site considerations.

How will I pay for solar?

The two most common mechanisms to pay for solar are to pay with cash up-front or to finance the system. Buying the system up-front means that the system belongs to you. Financing mechanisms come in many forms, the most common of which is a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). The terms of a PPA depend on the specifics of the contract, but typically the developer owns the system and the developer sells the power generated from the system to the host. More details on this financing mechanism can be found in the Solar PPA Calculator.

Are there issues with solar installations and public bonding?

Financing solar installations with a PPA has been done across Minnesota. Some local governments have questions about how bonding laws address leasing roof space and then purchasing the solar energy produced on building built with bond funding. Jurisdictions are strongly encouraged to consult their bond counsel who will be more familiar with the intricacies of these issues.

How long do solar panels last?

Contracts for solar installations often have a 20-25-year term, but the panels can last longer. Often inverters must be replaced mid-way through a project.

What happens at the end of the contract?

The end of the term obligations should will often be explicitly laid out in your contract.

What happens if there are problems with my solar system?

It depends on the ownership of your system. If you finance your system, the contract should include a provision that the developer will maintain the functioning of the solar system. If you own the system, you will be responsible for its maintenance which you can do and/or you can contract with a vendor to perform.

How much solar can I install? How much solar do I need?

If you are in Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power or Otter Tail Power service territory, you can install enough solar to cover up to 120% of your annual electricity usage. The size of your system will depend on your how sunny your site is, how big your site is, and your budget. To get an estimate of how much solar could be installed at your site, you can type your site’s address into the PVWatts Calculator. In Cooperative and Municipal Utility territory, to receive net-metering, your project cannot exceed 40 kW in size.

When should I involve my policy makers?

Day one! It’s important to get stakeholders involved early on in the process.

Will this process help me subscribe to a community solar garden?

No. This initiative is for individually-owned roof-mounted or ground-mounted solar systems installed on or near public facilities. Learn more about community solar gardens.

How will operations & maintenance (O&M) be handled?

If you select the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) option, the solar installer will be responsible for O&M throughout the term of the PPA (usually 20-25 years). Installers are also required to provide pricing for O&M services for the first year of operation if you are choosing to purchase the system outright.

solar capitol

Solar being installed in the Capitol Complex