Solar Possible

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Interested in installing solar on a public facility? The Solar Possible initiative offers state agencies, local governments, and schools in Xcel Energy electric territory in Minnesota the opportunity to procure solar through a joint RFP process.

Solar
Collaborative solar purchasing can reduce administrative costs, support peer learning, enable timely action, and reduce costs through bulk pricing.

Solar Possible is a joint effort of Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs), Great Plains Institute, and the Minnesota Department of Administration, Office of Enterprise Sustainability.

Download a description of the project >>

  Why participate in a joint RFP for solar?

Whether it be to achieve environmental goals, reduce energy costs, or show community leadership, solar can provide measurable benefits for state and local governments. However, the process for procuring solar can be difficult, including the following challenges:


  • Limited staff time and resources to run an effective Request-for-Proposals (RFP) process

  • Lack of knowledge on solar technologies, contract terms, and financing options

  • Competing priorities that are more urgent than solar procurement

Collaborative government procurement of solar has been shown to address these barriers by reducing administrative costs for participants, providing opportunities for peer learning and action, providing a structured process for timely action, and potentially reducing solar system costs through bulk pricing.


  What do we hope to accomplish?

Solar Possible will address the above barriers by coordinating a joint site(s)-specific RFP process among multiple state, local government and school participants, including the following key elements:


  • Joint Site(s)-specific RFP. Instead of each government entity running their own individual RFP process, this project will provide the opportunity for multiple entities to sign onto a single, joint RFP process, reducing government staff time and resources needed to procure solar.

  • Technical assistance. Throughout the project, CERTs will host in-person and webinar meetings to educate participants about solar technology, contract terms, and financing options, with the goal of empowering each participant to make an informed decision in response to vendor proposals. CERTs will also provide 1-on-1 technical assistance.

  • Structured process. This project will provide a series of action steps and deadlines to help government staff tackle solar procurement one step at a time and make the process more manageable among competing priorities.

  What Does the Process Look Like?

State agencies, local governments, and schools within Xcel Energy electric territory in Minnesota are invited to participate in this initial RFP.

The process below describes how the joint site(s)-specific RFP will be issued and how local governments can procure solar through this initiative.


  1. Brief Note of Interest (Due March 30, 2018): Participants will send a quick email to Peter Lindstrom at plindstr@umn.edu to indicate interest in being part of the project.

  2. Collect Letters of Intent (Due April 30, 2018): Interested local governments and schools will sign a non-binding letter formally declaring their intent to participate in the site(s)-specific RFP process, including seeking to identify at least one potential site that is suitable for solar.

  3. Conduct Solar Site Assessment for Each Site (May 2018): Interested participants will conduct preliminary solar site assessments for one or more publicly owned facilities or properties, to identify suitability for solar and inclusion in the joint RFP. CERTs and GPI will conduct a webinar to help participants with the assessment process.

  4. Issue Site(s)-Specific Request for Proposals (Expected June 15th 2018): CERTs and GPI will work with participants to schedule a site visit for each participating entity, to allow interested solar developers to identify any site-specific changes for their proposal.

  5. Conduct Developer Site Visits (June – July 2018): CERTs and GPI will work with participants to schedule a site visit for each participating entity, to allow interested solar developers to identify any site-specific changes for their proposal.

  6. Offer Evaluation and Selection (August 2018): The procurement lead will lead a process to evaluate and rank solar developers’ proposals according to qualifications, experience, and price, and other factors. The procurement lead will determine whether to select one or multiple proposers depending on the quality and breadth of proposals received.

  7. Offers Provided (August 2018): Participants will receive either one or possibly multiple offers to choose from. To help participants evaluate offers, CERTs and GPI will offer a webinar and technical assistance with the offer evaluation process, including reviewing potential risks, key contract terms, and financial costs and benefits. Technical assistance will be available until decisions are due in mid-October, 2018.

  8. Decisions to Move Forward (Due October 15th, 2018): Participants will decide whether to move forward with their proposed project(s). Participants not moving forward will be able to exit the process without any penalty other than staff time already invested in participating.

  9. Installations (Fall 2018 – Spring/Summer 2019): Participants moving forward with one or more projects will work with their selected developer to schedule the installation and establish logistics for on-site work.

  10. Project Promotion and Celebration (Spring/Summer 2019): CERTs and GPI will assist participants with communications to highlight and celebrate their installations as a result of the process.

  Timeline

Action

Date

Brief Notes of Interest Due March 30, 2018 Missed the deadline? Contact Peter Lindstrom
Collect Letters of Intent Due April 30, 2018
Conduct Site Self-Assessments May 2018
Issue Request for Proposals Expected June 15, 2018
Conduct Developer Site Visits June-July 2018
Offer Evaluation and Selection August 2018
Offers Provided August 2018
Decisions to Move Forward Due October 15, 2018
Installations Fall 2018 – Spring 2019
Project Promotion and Celebration Summer 2019

  Download Project Materials

Materials from March 14 Kick-Off Event:

Participation Materials:

Participation forms and other materials will be updated soon. If you’re interested in participating, please send a quick note by email to Peter Lindstrom at plindstr@umn.edu as soon as possible so that we can keep you informed as the project moves forward.

  Frequently Asked Questions

Question

What are the benefits of participating?

This process can help your state agency, local government, or school to install solar on public facilities by saving administrative time, simplifying the procurement process, providing technical assistance, and fostering collaboration with peers. The process may also reduce the cost of your solar system(s) through bulk pricing.

Question

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.

Question

Can I use this joint site(s)-specific RFP to get proposals for multiple solar projects?

Yes. You can include one or more sites at which you would like to install solar.

Question

How will I know what to look for when evaluating a potential site for solar?

The Solar Site Assessment Pre-Checklist gives an overview of the types of information you will need to report. When you’re ready, you can input this information into the Solar Site Self-Assessment Submission form to be included in the joint site(s)-specific RFP. This process will be explained on a webinar for all participants in early May.

Question

If I start to participate and then change my mind, is there a penalty for deciding not to install solar after all?

No, there is no penalty. Participants will have until October 15, 2018 to decide whether they would like to proceed with a proposed project. A participant who decides not to move forward with the offer(s) provided will be able to exit the process without any penalty other than the staff time already invested in participating.

Question

Is there a fee to participate in the joint site(s)-specific RFP?

No, there is no fee. You will not have to make any payments unless you decide to actually proceed with a solar installation.

Question

Does my organization need to have enough money available to pay for installing a solar system before we can participate?

No. As part of this initiative, each installer will submit, at minimum, two payment options:

Option 1: Your organization can purchase the system outright, or
Option 2: Your organization can finance the system through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). In a PPA, a third party maintains the solar on your facility while your organization makes monthly payments. No upfront payment is required.

Question

If my organization is not yet ready to proceed, can we participate in the same process next year?

Not necessarily; if your organization is interested in participating, now is the time. Our team hopes to repeat this process if there is enough interest, but we may not have the funding to repeat the work next year in Xcel Energy electric utility territory. However, it is very likely that we will repeat the process in the future for participants in other utility territories.

Keep in mind that even if you do not participate in the joint site(s)-specific RFP, you can still use the State’s Master Contract to pursue a solar project on your own.

Question

If we would like to participate but have an issue with the project timeline, what can we do?

If the Solar Possible project timeline does not work due to your organization’s budget process or another reason, please contact us (information below) to inquire about timeline flexibility as soon as possible.

Question

Is it possible to participate in the joint site(s)-specific RFP process but postpone the actual installation by several months to allow time to fix the roof?

Yes, this may be possible as long as any specific timing needs are listed in the RFP from the beginning of the process. (Installers will need to incorporate these constraints into proposed work plans.)

Question

I’ve heard about a “Master RFP” and a “Joint Site(s)-specific RFP.” What is the difference?

The Minnesota Department of Administration put out a “Master RFP” to pre-screen solar installers based on criteria such as experience, quality, diversity, and cost. These pre-selected installers will be included in the state’s Master Contract for solar.

The “Joint Site(s)-specific RFP” will include each specific site at which state agencies, local governments, and schools would like to install solar. Only the pre-selected solar installers listed on the Master Contract will be allowed to submit proposals for this RFP.

Question

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.

Question

Who needs to sign the Letter of Intent?

The person who signs the Letter of Intent should have the authority to approve the proposed project(s).The letter may be signed by staff, elected officials, or other leaders; it is up to you to decide who at your organization would be most appropriate.

Question

Will vendors be allowed to submit battery storage as part of their proposals?

Yes. Storage is included as an option in the Master Contract, but is not required.

Question

Would installing a canopy on the ground be considered a “ground mount”?

Yes, canopies are included in the Master RFP as a variation of a ground mount.

  Contact Information

Questions or comments? Please contact…

Trevor Drake Peter Lindstrom
Project Manager Public Sector and Community Engagement Manager
Great Plains Institute Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs)
612-767-7291 612-625-9634
tdrake@gpisd.net plindstr@umn.edu

Minnesotans building a clean energy future

         

    CERTs Partners:

Minnesota Department of Commerce University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension Great Plains Institute Southwest Regional Development Commission