Utilities now fielding solar-garden proposals


In November 2011, Gov. John Hickenlooper helped break ground for SunShare's first solar garden on  Venetucci Farm. - COURTESY SUNSHARE
  • Courtesy SunShare
  • In November 2011, Gov. John Hickenlooper helped break ground for SunShare's first solar garden on Venetucci Farm.

The city's request for proposals for 2 megawatts of community solar gardens was released yesterday, along with an Oct. 1 deadline to respond.

The RFP has been a long time coming, and it sets high hurdles, some of which could discourage less mature outfits from applying.

For example, minimum qualifications include the requirement that a developer must have designed, built, maintained and operated a community solar garden of a half-megawatt or bigger through an electric distribution utility for at least a year, and that the garden still be operational. Also, the garden must be in operation one year after the contract award date, or Utilities can cancel the contract. The RFP also requires the developer to demonstrate specific ability to maintain the garden over time.

David Amster-Olszewski, a Colorado College grad who started SunShare three years ago, already has built two half-megawatt gardens, fully subscribed, that are connected to Colorado Springs Utilities' grid under a pilot program. Two other developers haven't, at least locally: One isn't built yet, and the other is only partially subscribed.

A mandatory pre-proposal conference will be held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday for all bidders. The meeting will be at Springs Utilities' office at the Plaza of the Rockies building downtown.

Proposals will be judged on the following:

— Previous background and experience relevant to this RFP.
— Schedule of pricing.
— Technical content of the proposal.
— Adequacy and completeness of the proposal with regard to the information specified herein; i.e., compliance with and acceptance of all terms, conditions and all other provisions contained in the RFP.

For example, one provision allows Utilities "to use any of the concepts or ideas contained" in a proposal, even if the proposal is rejected. Another says a bidder might be required to show "that it has satisfactorily provided products and performed similar work in the past." Additionally, "No proposal will be accepted from a Respondent who is engaged in any work which would impair its ability to perform or finance this Work. All such work shall be revealed in the proposal."

So that means a company has to have a track record in the solar gardens business, without being over-extended elsewhere. SunShare is building solar gardens in the Denver area and is working on a deal in Sacramento, Calif.

The "target" performance-based incentive for the developer is 7 cents per kilowatt hour. Customer credits will vary from 5.44 cents per kilowatt hour for a small electric user to 4.62 cents for large industrial users.

Other requirements include a mandate that within 30 calendar days of the date of the facility approval letter, the developer shall have 10 customers subscribed. If 10 subscribers aren't signed up 90 days after approval of the facilities installation request form, Utilities can cancel the contract. The same is true if the garden isn't delivering power to the Utilities grid within one year after the award date.

Utilities intends to award contracts in mid-October.

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