Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) is seeking qualified firms to submit proposals for the design, procurement, and installation of new residential and commercial photovoltaic (PV) systems at a per-watt price lower than the prevailing single system market rate.
The “group buy” program is being led by MREA. The goal of the program is to increase consumer education and PV installations in the Illinois counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, and Will, through a group purchase involving a competitive contractor selection process, an advantageous pricing and rebate structure, and free information sessions.
Between 2013 and 2021, MREA facilitated more than 50 Solar Group Buy programs around the Midwest, reaching over 11,600 individuals with our Solar Power Hour information sessions, and leading to more than 17,400 kW on over 2,300 properties. Among those who attended our presentations, an average of 20% purchased a PV system. To date, the average system size is 7.3 kW. Similar programs in Chicagoland in 2019 and 2020 resulted in 121 and 81 solar installations, respectively.
To encourage early participation in the program and to limit unexpected influx of demand for site assessments and cost estimates near the program deadline, the Grow Solar Chicagoland program will limit capacity to 750 kW or 100 installations (whichever happens first). If the program reaches capacity quickly, MREA and CUB may offer an additional round of the program in 2022, including another RFP process.
The group buy program is offered with support from MREA, Citizens Utility Board of Illinois (CUB), the City of Chicago, and the counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, and Will. MREA and CUB will coordinate and deliver a minimum of 30 free, public Solar Power Hour information sessions and market them widely with physical posters, email blasts, paid social media promotion, in the press, and more. Depending on local public health conditions, presentations may be webinars or in person.
March 2, 2022 Extended: April 1
RFP Questions Due/Posted:
March 17, 2022 April 14 at 2pm Central
RFP Proposals Due:
March 24, 2022 April 21 at 2pm Central
April 8, 2022 May 5
Participant List Available to Contractor: Ongoing
Site Assessments Provided to Participants: May through September, 2022
Participants Make “Go” or “No Go” Decision: May through September 30, 2022
Installations Begin: Upon first customer contract signature
Installations Completed: December 31, 2022 unless extension is granted
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
- My company focuses on commercial and industrial renewable energy projects. I was wondering if we could provide Commercial and PPA options along with a residential partner?
Yes, you can certainly do that. Please be aware however that when PPAs have been made available in our previous Grow Solar programs, they have been used minimally by customers. Additionally, more than 97% of participants in Grow Solar programs are residential customers.
- Is there an available participant list? I saw that it is listed as on-going.
Only the selected installer will be given the list of sign-ups.
- Can you confirm the following dates? Due Date: April 21 at 2:00 PM and Firm(s) Selected: May 5
- September 30 is stated as the “go” or “no go” due date, is it possible to move this date up to the beginning of September or end of August? Looking at our previous experience in a previous program, 64% (85) participants signed up in September. 55 of those were in the last two weeks of the month (September 22 – September 30). Running a forecast against the cap of 100 projects, we’d be looking at fitting in 64 projects in 3 months. While this is an easier goal to digest – we are sure to face unprecedented obstacles (permitting hang-ups, module shortages, tariffs, lingering COVID issues, the War, etc) and are concerned about ensuring we meet expectations.
The deadline can be flexible and the program team will decide with the selected installer on exactly what date to end the program.
- We appreciate the thoughtful program capacity stated in the RFP. Would we be able to use the capacity limit as a soft close and have the ability to reassess if we can take on more while meeting expectations? For instance, if we were to meet the size capacity, it could be made up by a smaller customer base with larger systems. This would allow us to serve more participants.
The capacity limit is designed to spur action by participants and even out the installation timeline (i.e. the capacity limit encourages participants not to wait until the end of the program to sign their contract). Another function of the capacity limit is to prevent from overwhelming the selected installer, assuming there will be lots of demand for 2022 installations in light of the 26% Federal ITC stepping down, coupled with potential supply chain issues. The current plan is to offer another RFP if capacity is met quickly. If the average system size differs significantly from the projected ~7.5 kW, an exception could be made to the cap according to the selected installer’s actual installation capacity.
- The installations are required to be completed on December 31, 2022. Can you elaborate on what circumstances would grant an extension?
In our weekly team meetings we will continuously check in with the selected installer as to their projected remaining installation capacity for the calendar year. As the installer comes up against their installation capacity, we will communicate to program participants that contracts signed before X date or Y kW solar capacity are expected to be installed this calendar year, and contracts signed after that date or kW solar capacity are expected to be installed the following calendar year. Extensions would be granted on this basis, but installation timelines in customer contracts should still provide for production credits if delays result from installer’s failure to meet expectations. In other words, 2023 installations must still be performed in a timely manner.
- Can you clarify if completion on December 31, 2022 is defined as installation completion or PTO granted?
Systems must be operational per IRS guidelines such that customers can claim the 26% Federal ITC on 2022 installations.
- We were unable to find information regarding the commitment to the Solar Power Hours. Can you please share the commitment the installer has to those? How often will they take place? Will those sessions be virtual or in-person?
The presentation schedule is being developed presently, and will include a minimum of 30 presentations over the course of the program (May-September). Some will be in person and some will be conducted virtually over Zoom. We expect the selected installer to have a representative at each presentation to answer questions, co-present a brief portion of the presentation, and interface with potential customers.