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Community Solar

Solicit Bids and Select a Project Developer

Conducting a competitive RFP to solicit bids for your project and ultimately select a top developer is a crucial part of playing the project manager role. This process allows the city direct control over the process. If you have decided to use a third party to manage the subscription process or have other developer requirements, such as workforce development training or LMI subscription, you should draft your RFP so as to include those requirements.

Compile Legal Documents for Your RFP

To ensure the developer meet the needs of your project, it is critical to compile all legal documents in your RFP. Developers will provide commentary on these documents, which will help with your due diligence and development timeline, and greatly increase the chance of success. Typical legal documents you should include are a power purchase agreement, interconnection agreement, and land lease agreement. Here is what you will need to do:

  • Draft a power purchase agreement. Work with your internal legal counsel to review the agreement.
  • Draft an interconnection agreement by reading RMI’s guidelines for an Interconnection Agreement and editing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s sample agreement to meet your needs. Work with your lawyer or an interconnection consultant to ensure it meets your project needs.
  • Draft a land lease agreement by reading A Guide to Sample Community Solar Garden Leases provided by the University of Minnesota Law School and the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society. Edit the land lease to meet your needs and review with your internal legal team or a consultant.

Write the RFP and Create an RFP Bid Sheet

An RFP solicits all the information required to evaluate a bidder. In addition to the price, experience, and delivery method questions, the RFP also asks developers for feedback on the PPA and other legal documents.

In addition, you will need to write an RFP bid sheet. The purpose of an RFP bid sheet is to evaluate developer bids and select a top, reliable developer. Often developer bids are evaluated on price, ability to deliver, quality, and responses to key legal documents.

To write the RFP, you can

  • Look at other cities’ RFPs. This will help you gain inspiration in writing your RFP.
  • Include legal documents so developers can provide initial commentary on them.

The Solar Foundation has put together some city-focused examples of best practices in RFP development, and our team developed a brief guide to center equity and high-road labor practices in clean energy RFPs, including sample text

Distribute the RFP to Developers and Explain the Evaluation Process

Once the RFP legal documents are generated and you have written the RFP and the RFP bid sheet, you should distribute these documents to a broad distribution list. This maximizes your chances of receiving high-quality bids.

To generate a list of solar project developers, consider reaching out to your state’s solar or renewable energy industry association (try searching the SEIA Member Directory).

To gather the most accurate bids from developers and ensure the success of your project, it is a good idea to explain the RFP evaluation process to developers. Explaining the process will ensure there is clarity surrounding the RFP process, allow you the opportunity to explain the evaluation model, and outline important cost assumptions and clarifications.

To do this, you could

  • Create a website or email platform where respondent questions are openly and transparently addressed.
  • Provide email updates to all developers that have indicated that they intend to participate in the RFP.
  • Conduct an RFP webinar. A sample RFP management webinar can be found through RMI’s community solar website. This webinar includes:
    • An overview of the RFP process for developers
    • An explanation of how bids are evaluated
    • A review of sites
    • A review of economic assumptions to be used in the RFP
    • An overview of next steps for the developer
    • An open Q&A forum during a webinar

Evaluate and Select the Winning Bid(s)

Once bids are submitted, you can evaluate bids using your RFP bid sheet. Bids should be evaluated on price, ability to deliver, and quality. This process will result in the selection of a top developer. The selection of a developer then requires that all RFP respondents be notified of your decision.