Working with the right partner to site your distributed solar project can save you time and money
By Myles Burnsed, Vice President, Strategic Developments
As increasing numbers of electric cooperatives, municipal-owned utilities and investor-owned utilities seek to capture the benefits of clean, renewable energy for their customers, many are looking for ways to integrate distributed solar resources into their generation portfolios.
Augmenting your organization’s portfolio with distributed solar offers several benefits. In addition to providing a low-cost, fuel-free, zero-carbon source of electricity that can help meet renewable energy targets, it also creates jobs, satisfies customer demand for sustainable power, and enhances your organization’s image in the surrounding community.
However, achieving these goals necessitates managing multiple constraints: available land, regulatory requirements, and interconnection queues, the latter of which can involve frustrating, multi-year backlogs in many parts of the country.
EDF Renewables has more than 35 years’ experience developing over 16 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy projects of all sizes across the US, including 14 GW of utility-scale projects up to 350 megawatts (MW) in size. But when it comes to distributed generation (DG), we know that bigger isn’t always better.
Our Distribution-Scale Power team has developed more than 1,550 MW of solar and storage projects across the country. Rather than taking a scattershot approach to siting, our preferred method is to partner with clients early to deliver projects that are optimally sited.
This approach is somewhat different from the most common method for a utility or cooperative to solicit a solar project, which is to conduct a request for proposals (RFP) to poll the market and identify current developments that may satisfy the organization’s goals. While RFPs can be useful for finding grid-scale assets in deregulated markets with public interconnection queues and access to the broader transmission grid, it often fails for DG projects that are in front of the meter.
This is because although RFPs for DG solar projects can produce a highly varied mix of results with different locations, maturities, pricing, and capacity, what appears to be a diverse selection that offers optionality may in fact turn out to be a misleading morass.
For example, although the RFP may yield a project with very attractive pricing, after contracting it may be discovered that the project’s size requires additional state or utility regulatory review, or that interconnection studies determined the capacity is too large for the distribution system due to back-feed constraints onto the transmission system, and therefore, the project capacity must be reduced considerably.
Any consequential reduction in the capacity of a project can cause a cascade of economic challenges that greatly reduce the project’s chance of success, including loss of construction economies of scale, disappointed landowners and communities, and sometimes even loss of interconnection priority. Making matters worse, by this point the utility or cooperative will likely have expended significant internal and external resources only to get to a failed project, while also potentially missing out on other viable projects that would have satisfied their needs.
Throughout the US, transparency regarding distribution-system infrastructure is limited and fractured, and choosing an experienced, knowledgeable partner to help navigate and optimally site front-of-the-meter DG projects is essential. EDF Renewables’ strategic development team works closely with utilities and cooperatives to understand their unique needs and constraints and ensure positive outcomes for all stakeholders. We use proprietary software to analyze the characteristics of the specific load profiles of distribution systems and then create a tailored solution that delivers an optimized, local project to meet demand.
EDF Renewables’ engineering team has decades of collective DG solar experience and can provide customized, proven solutions to overcome capacity and interconnection challenges that might otherwise delay or even kill a project. In addition, our development team actively follows regulatory and energy markets throughout the country and uses this knowledge to site projects that meet the economic requirements of our clients.
This targeted approach is a key factor in EDF Renewables’ ability to successfully complete cost-effective projects in a relatively short timeframe and contributes to high levels of satisfaction among our clients and their customers.
Another advantage of working with EDF Renewables is that we are a leading developer of environmentally sensitive sites, with extensive experience revitalizing former landfills, brownfields, and wastewater treatment plants by converting the sites into solar facilities.
EDF Renewables Distribution-Scale Power team provides industry-leading, cost-effective development, engineering, construction, and if desired, operation of solar and storage projects. Contact us today to learn more about how we can deliver a solution designed to meet your needs!