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On-Site Solar

Run an RFP

The goal of a request for proposal (RFP) is to solicit accurate, comparable bids from qualified vendors and select the best-qualified Proposer to achieve the project goals. When developing an RFP, it is important to strike a balance between being too prescriptive and remaining flexible. Being too prescriptive may force developers to increase their prices or may dissuade them from participating at all, whereas being too vague may result in bids which do not meet the local government’s needs or are difficult to compare.

The ACCC Renewables Accelerator team created an on-site solar RFP template that integrates best practices found in the DOE Better Buildings initiative’s Solar PV Request for Proposal & Procurement Guidance template, NREL’s Request for Proposal Template for Grid-Tied Solar PV Systems for State, City, and Other Entities, City of San Diego’s On-site Solar RFP, Fairfax County’s On-site Solar PPA RFP, City of Charlotte’s Off-site PPA RFP, industry experts, and our internal expertise.

Below are the recommended RFP elements found in this RFP template, along with helpful recordings from an ACCC Renewables Accelerator RFP virtual workshop.

  • 1. Project Overview and Purpose

    This section provides a concise summary of the city’s motivations and the on-site solar project so that  potential Proposers can quickly determine their interest. It typically includes the following information:

    • RFP Purpose and project goals (e.g., make progress on city renewable energy goals, visibly demonstrate the city’s renewable energy commitment, reduce electricity costs, support local businesses, increase resilience, etc.)
    • City background and context (e.g., renewable energy or sustainability goals, previous renewable projects, electric load and utility provider(s))
    • Project summary (e.g., site location(s), annual electric load, estimated solar PV system size(s) in kW, system type(s), preferred ownership structure, O&M, monitoring, and end of contract)

     

  • 2. Scope of Work

    This section specifies the Proposer’s project responsibilities and requirements. It typically includes the following information:

    • Design guidelines (e.g., 10-degree tilt for a flat roof with an orientation that maximizes annual energy production)
    • Technical requirements and reference materials (e.g., code compliance)
    • Post-construction inspection and commissioning plan (e.g., utility interconnection requirements)
    • System ownership structure and REC ownership (e.g., the local government secures REC ownership rights to legally claim the environmental attributes and make progress toward its renewable energy goals)
    • Performance guarantees (e.g., guaranteed annual production in kWh)
    • Data monitoring and access (e.g., access to an online data monitoring system to identify system performance issues and to use for educational opportunities)
    • Roles and responsibilities (e.g., operations and maintenance)
    • Contract length and post-contract renewal, system removal, or city ownership (e.g., a 20-year contract with the developer responsible for system removal costs upon the natural contract termination)

     

  • 3. Procurement Schedule

    This section identifies all relevant project dates and deadlines, and the responsible party. It typically includes the following information:

    • Tentative project and deliverable timeline (e.g., facility site visits date and deadlines for RFP questions, proposal submissions, short-listed presentations, and contract execution). It is typical to allow four to six weeks for contractors to respond to an RFP.
    • Submission guidelines (e.g., electronic or paper submission and specifications for a legal and binding proposal)

     

  • 4. Proposal Requirements

    This section specifies the required proposal format and contents the Proposer must provide so that responses are easy to accurately interpret and compare. It typically includes the following information:

    • Cover letter and executive summary
    • Price proposal (e.g., $/W for direct ownership, or $/kWh for a PPA with applicable incentives)
    • Equipment information (e.g., layout of installation and performance of equipment components)
    • Installation interconnection information (e.g., array orientation, tilt, and total capacity)
    • Performance characteristics (e.g., shading calculation documentation and total system output in kWh/year)
    • Proposer profile, experience, and project team (e.g., company’s years in business, experience working with local governments, completed projects similar in scope and complexity, references, past or ongoing litigation)
    • (Optional) Requirements for local and/or minority-owned, women-owned, and disadvantaged businesses (MWDBEs). You will need to establish enforcement policies with consequences for noncompliance.

     

  • 5. Proposal Evaluation

    This section details how, and on which criteria, the proposals will be evaluated. Providing this clarity allows Proposers to tailor their bids and ensures that the selected proposal is the one that most closely aligns with the local government’s goals. It typically includes the following information:

    • Evaluation criteria (e.g., completeness, proper qualifications and experience, quality of technical proposal, cost-effectiveness, implementation plan and schedule, and contract terms and conditions)
    • (optional) Evaluation criteria weighting (e.g., 40 points for criteria A, 30 points for criteria B, 20 points for criteria C, 10 points for criteria D). An evaluation matrix, such as this solar RFP proposal Evaluation Matrix, can be helpful when evaluating multiple proposals.

     

  • 6. RFP Attachments

    This section includes all additional documentation necessary for the Proposer to submit an accurate and comprehensive proposal. It typically includes the following information:

    • Site and/or roof plans (e.g., solar areas identified on the roof images)
    • Roof structural drawings
    • Building electrical single line drawings
    • Electric rates and consumption (e.g., utility bill PDFs for the rate schedule and hourly consumption data)
    • Contract terms and conditions (e.g., conditions that the Proposer would be required to agree to if awarded the project)
    • Cost proposal form (e.g., Excel file with input cells for the Proposer that auto-calculates financial results)

     

Throughout the RFP development, it is important to work with the local government’s attorney or legal counsel to ensure the RFP adheres to relevant procedures and requirements. The legal pitfalls discussion during the ACCC Renewable Accelerator RFP virtual workshop speaks to some of the most common issues.

An RFP can be issued through either an open or closed solicitation. A closed solicitation means only select contractors can bid on the RFP; the selection will likely be determined by the RFQ. An open solicitation means anyone can respond to the RFP, which is often distributed on domains such as Bidnetdirect. If your city has a requirement in the RFP to support local and/or MWDBEs contractors, consider establishing MWDBEs regional ecosystems and engaging the community and business networks to assist contractors in reaching their MWDBE goals.

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