Establish Project Development and Renewable Energy Goals
Establishing your goals is one of the most important steps in the solar development process. Once you determine what your renewable energy goals are and how your project can meet them, you can begin to move forward with your plans. During this phase, you should create a project development plan that outlines what your business’s circumstances and resources are. This will help you and your colleagues understand your business’s position as you continue to develop the project. You can also create a solar project development checklist to remind yourself of the steps you should take to meet your goals.
Look at Site Opportunities and Assess Their Utility Data
In this step, you should begin looking at the project site opportunities available to you. Can you build the project on your business’s property? Do you have land on your property where you can install the solar energy panels? If not, will you install the panels on the roof or on nearby land?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you should begin visiting the site and collecting its information and utility data. Observe how much sunlight the site gets. Note whether nearby trees will create shadows that can block the project’s panels from taking in sunlight. You should also learn about any solar policies that might affect your project’s development. Research land use permits you’ll need to obtain, along with economic factors that might affect your site.
This is when you begin to look for solar power developers to help you finance and develop your project. Your proposal is a general outline of your project’s terms and conditions. This will help U.S. solar developers determine whether your project will be a good fit for them. During this step, you should obtain a Renewable Energy Certificate if you want to make any claims about your business’s renewable energy usage.
Evaluate Developers’ Project Proposals
Once you issue your RFP, you will receive proposals from renewable energy companies and community solar developers who want to design and build your project. Go over each proposal and perform due diligence on each developer. You need to sort out the established developers from the experienced ones. One easy way to do this is to ask how many active solar projects they have previously designed and built. An experienced developer can provide dozens of past projects, but an inexperienced one will only have projects in their “pipeline,” with no existing projects to talk about.
Also, unless you have the cash or a bank loan to purchase your solar energy system outright, your project will need financing. Your developer can help you finance the project by offering you a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which is similar to traditional energy agreements with local utility companies, or a solar lease. With a solar lease, you can rent the system for a flat monthly rate with little to no upfront capital on your end. Consider your financial resources and options carefully as you determine how you should finance your project.
Choose a Proposal and Sign a Contract
After you perform your due diligence for all interested developers and review their proposals, it’s time to choose one. Once you do, you will sign a contract with that developer. Be wary of any developer who pushes you to sign their contract—consider that a red flag. Review all aspects of the contract with legal counsel before you sign anything. When you sign the contract, you and your renewal energy project developer will have begun a partnership that should last the project’s lifespan, which could be decades long.
Begin Building Your Project
You’ve made it to the end of the development process, but your project is still in the beginning stages. Now construction can begin. When your project is built, your business will start reaping the benefits of renewable energy. If you entered into a PPA or solar lease agreement with your developer, they will handle your system’s maintenance and operations as it produces electricity for you. If you purchased the system outright, you will handle maintenance and operations.