Posts Tagged ‘PV’

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) are requesting proposals from designated Green Communities interested in participating in the second round of Solarize Massachusetts. This program aims to drive community adoption of PV projects through localized marketing and installation efforts, which in turn will help reduce the installation costs of small-scale PV projects within SolarizeMass communities.

 Per MassCEC, those applicants that “demonstrate a clear and committed plan to increasing education and outreach around solar PV, as well as how to streamline the permitting processes around small-scale solar PV installations, will be highly competitive.”

MassCEC will be accepting responses until March 21, 2012, and a bidder’s conference is scheduled for February 27th.

More information about this solicitation can be found here.

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 DOER filed a report with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities outlining recommendations for utilities to improve the process of connecting new renewable energy generation installations to the electric grid. In its filing, DOER attached the Massachusetts Distributed Generation Interconnection Report which surveyed customers seeking interconnection in the state, researched policies in other states, interviewed utilities, and made specific recommendations about improving interconnection processes and policies.

The status of progress on these issues and scheduling for distributed generation (DG) workshops is available at the Massachusetts DG and Interconnection Website (http://bit.ly/MADGIC).

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One of the main determinants of whether an RFP for a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) will attract qualified developers and advantageous bids is estimated total potential capacity. If this information is not available, site area or rooftop square footage can serve as a proxy.

More Space. More Attention.

When conceiving of a renewable energy project, cities and towns should look to aggregate potential sites. Whether or not a PPA makes sense for the community will depend on the total amount of capacity that is feasible. For example, some PV developers require 500 kW of PV potential before proposing a solar PPA. Others will not pursue landfill solar projects that are smaller than two (2) MW. By aggregating as many rooftops and open spaces as possible in your project RFP, you will attract more vendors and capture economies of scale.

Whether conducting your own due diligence or investing in site assessments, your RFP should ultimately focus on quality sites. Buildings with aging roofs, for example, should be set aside for future phases. Those with many rooftop penetrations and little usable space should similarly be deferred.

 If publicly-owned buildings and open spaces are very limited, look elsewhere. Consider partnering with a neighboring municipality or other public entity in the region (e.g., schools, hospitals). This may be especially helpful where the potential partner has experience with renewable energy projects. Together, you may receive bids that neither could have attracted alone.

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Are you building a new school or other public building? If your community is interested in incorporating solar photovoltaics (PV) into a new building project, but unable to do so at this time, specifying a “solar ready” roof will set you up for future success, because many of the modifications made to accomodate solar PV as a retrofit are low/no cost at the design phase. Preparing for solar PV during the building design phase maximizes PV capacity potential and significantly improves the economics of future solar development. Solar readiness should be discussed early in the building design phase; even high-performance green buildings are not always developed as solar ready buildings. 

Penetrations and obstructions on this high school's roof limit solar feasibility.

What is a solar ready roof?

A solar ready roof will have:

  • Sufficient load bearing capacity to accommodate future development of solar PV. A solar PV system typically adds an additional 2-7 pounds per square foot to building static loads, as well as potentially increasing wind-loading on the roof deck.
  • Significant roof area that is free of roof penetrations and obstructions, whereas a typical roof contains many scattered obstructions that impact solar feasibility. 
  • Pre-installed electrical infrastructure.  Running additional conduit to the roof is less expensive during construction than after the fact, and gives you the freedom to choose wiring paths, rather than being forced to, for example, install conduit along a building exterior.
What if my existing building is not solar ready?

Window washing anchors on this school's rooftop had the potential to limit PV capacity; however, the community elected to forego access to these anchors to maximize system size.

For those developing solar on existing buildings, it is important to consider access issues. For example, does the system design need to provide facilities managers with access to rooftop vent fans? If window-washing anchors are present on the roof, would the building owner be willing to forego access to these anchors and wash the building from ground level in order to take advantage of a much larger PV system?  

The DOE Solar America Communities program provides more information on how communities can promote solar readiness at homes, buildings, and developments on their website.



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In May 2011, Cadmus’ renewable energy team was invited to present at a series of Massachusetts Municipal Association events entitled “Solar in Cities and Towns.” Our presentation outlined five important steps on the pathway to success for a municipal solar PV project. These steps include garnering project support, building a savvy team, evaluating between options, understanding procurement pathways, and navigating contract negotiations.

One of the keys to project success is generating apples-to-apples bid comparisons. An apples-to-apples comparison can be approached proactively or achieved through careful bid review and clarifying questions. When regarding an estimated installed cost or proposed Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) rate, it is critical to investigate the terms behind this price. A proactive approach would be to include a checklist with your RFP price sheet asking the vendor to certify that all of the listed requirements are included in the price (e.g., curriculum package, public relations support, pre-installation roof work).

Looking beyond first year PPA rates at other metrics such as net present value over the term of the contract will also help generate apples-to-apples bid comparisons. Without considering the PPA rate escalation, first year PPA rates do not fully capture the value (or not) of a proposal. For example, a first year PPA rate of 10 cents per kiloWatt hour (kWh) escalating 3% each year will exceed 15 cents per kWh in year 15 of the contract. Excessively high escalation rates could result in communities paying more for solar electricity than for grid electricity.

The importance of apples-to-apples bid comparison cannot be emphasized enough when considering the value – financial or otherwise – that could be left on the table.

Suggested Strategies

  • Design an RFP to allow for apples-to-apples bid comparisons. Compare proposals using a baseline system capacity that they must bid against, but remember –the lowest cost bidder may not be the best value.
  • Include a checklist with your price sheet. Ask the developer to specify exactly what IS and IS NOT included in the price.
  • Get the full picture. Examine long-term financial metrics such as the net present value of the 20 year solar PPA.
  • Identify conservative standard assumptions for developers to use in savings models that they show you, such as grid electricity rate escalation of 2%.

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The fifth grade chorus sings their "Solar Song" to the tune of "Do Re Mi" at a ribbon cutting for the 200 kW Simonian Center system in Sutton, MA.

UPDATE: The Sutton Simonian Center PV project has been highlighted on the Commonwealth’s “Energy Smarts” blog.

Celebrating successful community renewable energy projects can be an important part of building support for your project. Communities with completed projects are often seen as leaders, and their success demonstrates the feasibility of these efforts.

Ribbon cutting events can be an exciting way to celebrate and share successful projects and lessons learned. The fifth grade chorus in Sutton made up their own “Solar Song” to perform at the ribbon cutting for the Simonian Center for Early Learning  200 kW municipally-owned solar PV system.

See their memorable performance online.

“Whacky Solar Panel Song” 
Sol, solar panels Sol-Sol Solar panels
[Do] Sometimes it takes a bit of dough
[Re] Absorbed on sunny sunny days
[Mi] We’re talking green energy
[Fa] The project went very fa (r)
Sol Solar panels whoa, whoa, whoa
[La] Lots of energy for everyone
[Ti] For the world community
[Do] So we’ll do some good and maybe change the world


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Closed landfills are increasingly popular sites for community renewable energy projects.

The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) is expected to release a handbook on landfill solar PV in the upcoming months. This handbook is expected to include community-specific guidance on these increasingly popular projects.

For additional information on renewable energy at closed landfills, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) website currently hosts a number of resources.

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