After choosing a technology and identifying a site, the next step is to find a solar developer. Soliciting bids for solar energy installations and then choosing a developer can be time consuming and complex. Streamlining the decision-making process by creating standard solicitation forms and establishing the appropriate evaluation criteria and process up front saves time and yields a better result.
Implementing a solar project on public facilities in MN can include either releasing a request for proposals (RFP) to solicit bids for photovoltaic (PV) or solar water heating (SWH) installations or entering in contract for service agreement.
By using a well-crafted RFP and evaluation process, a community can streamline the procurement effort and generate interest from multiple solar developers. Standardizing these processes makes it easier to solicit industry proposals for future installations and work across various city or county departments.
Depending on the financing model chose for a solar installation, an agency may have the option of issuing an RFP or signing a Contract for Service with the solar integrator. The factors that will determine which is best include:
- Type of solar financing model used. The direct ownership model will almost always require going through an RFP process because of the purchase amount. PPAs and leases may not require an RFP.
- State policies permit local authorities to enter into a Contract for service if the initial outlay of capital is under $2,500. This is often the case with PPAs and solar leases. Some local jurisdictions have instituted stricter policies though. (Statute on energy efficiency installment purchases is Minn.Stat. 16C.14)
The documents that specify the requirements for the installation, typically include things such as system size or energy output, technology type, installation location, and cost range. The proposal requirements will vary if they are for a power purchase agreement (PPA) rather than a design-and-build contract.
Another model that has seen great success in the residential and commercial markets is bulk-purchasing. Public agencies can potentially see great savings on equipment and time saved on project planning by bundling projects. This is another strategy to get a more competitive PPA also.
Manual lays out the rules and policies surrounding public purchasing in Minnesota.
Outlines the conditions under which a commissioner may contract to purchase by installment payments capital or other equipment or services intended to improve the energy efficiency or reduce the energy costs of a state building or facility.
The goal of this policy is to encourage and increase purchasing that reflects the City’s commitment to sustainability. This page contains links to PDFs of the Policy Resolution and Environmental Purchasing Policy.
Past RFPs for Minnesota Solar Projects
Fire Station No. 4, 13kW PV System (July 2012): Call for Bids <pdf>
In an effort to promote document standardization and aid in the successful development of renewable energy projects, the NREL finance team assembled a resource library of contracts, forms, and permits required during the development cycle of a solar project.
The Vote Solar Web site has several sample RFPs for direct purchases as well as PPAs.
RFP Library | NASEO ARRA Portal
The RFP Library is a resource of requests for proposals (RFP) under ARRA-funded programs and projects. Please note that this library offers sample RFPs used by states for State Energy Program (SEP), Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG), and State Energy-Efficient Appliance Rebate Program (SEEARP) projects. The RFPs are not peer-reviewed, nor do they serve as a reflection of the best projects. This library is intended to showcase a variety of RFP options that can then be adapted based on your state’s specific needs.
This web site includes a recently developed best practices guide, case studies, and template documents for public and private groups who want to leverage their buying power to decrease costs and improve vendor performance.
This guidebook describes key elements of the Solarize campaigns in Portland, and offers several program refinements from projects beyond Portland. The guidebook provides lessons, considerations, and step-by-step plans for project organizers to replicate the success of Solarize Portland.
This Best Practices Guide is intended to assist commercial and government entities in the process of organizing and executing a collaborative solar purchase. A measure of success will be the number of readers who use this guide in purchasing solar power to meet their electricity needs more sustainably and at an affordable price. The guide outlines a list of best practices, which together constitute a 12-step process to capture the economic and practical benefits of a joint purchase. The starting point for participating in such an effort is simply an interest in purchasing solar electricity. The best practices are intended as a resource for project planning and decision making. They provide specific actions in chronological order, with milestones to indicate when to move from one step to the next. The end goal is that regional groups of participants will have solar PV installed on their facilities at competitive prices.
Installers and other Industry Service Providers
SEIA offers a directory of solar hot water manufacturers, distributors, contractors, and design consultants. There are also several state SEIA chapters that are useful resources and sources of regional bidders on projects.
The Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (MnSEIA) represents and serves Minnesota energy professionals and solar energy users. MnSEIA is a membership association comprised primarily of organizations involved in photovoltaic and solar thermal energy. MnSEIA promotes the use of solar energy that best serves the public interest and conservation to improve the environment for a sustainable future.
Online directory to find companies that can help plan, implement and manage clean energy projects. It’s also a tool to learn more about the industries, find training opportunities, and share expertise with people in Minnesota and across the country.
The following manufacturers sell modules eligible for the Made in MN credits.
Located in Pine River, MN, RREAL manufactures an SRCC certified Solar Powered Furnace (SPF), an industry leading solar air heating system. These patent pending solar panels are designed and manufactured by RREAL to integrate seamlessly with residential and commercial buildings of all sizes.
Located in Mt. Iron, MN, Silicon Energy delivers the ideal photovoltaic (PV) module for those wanting a long-lasting, aesthetically unique and locally produced solution.
tenKsolar designs, manufactures and markets photovoltaic solutions. Founded in 2008, tenKsolar is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Located in Alexandria, MN, Solar Skies Mfg., LLC was established in 2006 to manufacture solar thermal collectors for commercial and residential use. Today at the Solar Skies’ 44,000 sq. ft. facility, a full product line of solar thermal flat-plate collectors and mounting hardware are manufactured and sold. The popular SS and NSC series solar collectors are available in a number of sizes and a wide range of options in order to meet the demands of each customer’s needs. The collectors are SRCC OG100, CSA, USEC and FSEC certified. Solar Skies panels were used on both of the Fire Station solar thermal installations in Minneapolis.