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Small Commercial Solar: Grow Your Business With This Untapped Sector


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Utility-scale solar is booming, and residential solar is on the rise, but the small-commercial solar market is still largely unrealized, despite wide open potential for growth. In this presentation, learn how to grow your business by taking advantage of this untapped sector, which some are calling the next goldmine of the solar industry.

We'll give you an overview of small commercial solar development, taking you through financing opportunities and challenges, diving into how to make small commercial solar more economical through project design and standardization, and giving you tips on how to eliminate hidden project costs and maximize your sales and installation efficiency and capability.

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Small Commercial Solar: Grow Your Business With This Untapped Sector

  1. 1. Small Commercial Solar: Growing Your Business With This Untapped Sector Presented by AllEarth Renewables
  2. 2. Overview Utility-scale solar is booming, and residential solar is on the rise, but the small-commercial solar market is still largely unrealized, despite wide open potential for growth. In this presentation, learn how to grow your business by taking advantage of this untapped sector, which some are calling the next goldmine of the solar industry.
  3. 3. Presenters • Chris Fraga, Founder & CEO, SolarSense • Josh Baston, Project Supervisor, Revision Energy • Doug MacDonald, Project Engineer, AllEarth Renewables
  4. 4. Want to download this SlideShare as a PDF? Click here!
  5. 5. Financing C&I Solar Projects Chris Fraga SolarSense
  6. 6. The Good News: • C&I is projected to be the “hot” growth market sector • Rich / large scale marketspace The Bad News: • C&I has attracted hundreds of competitive firms • The basics matter more than ever
  7. 7. • Would I invest $500,000 - $2,000,000 of my (own, family’s) personal retirement savings in this project? • If so: High probability of financing success • If not: Fix the issues, or, be prepared for no
  8. 8. The Basics Matter 1. Be clear & realistic with the type of financing you seek 2. Overall quality/design of the Project: Solar PV products, services & site viability 3. Strength & viability of the: • Host customer off-taker: likelihood of operations for 25 yrs? • Developer / EPC • State’s incentive structure 4. The project financial proforma model
  9. 9. Capital / Structure You Seek? Uses of Capital / Details Development financing • Pre-NTP activities & costs • Development team expenses • Site designs • Permitting • Interconnection submittal process Construction financing • Product procurement & carrying costs • Site preparation • Physical construction • Formal interconnection Project Asset Sale / Purchase Project Co. MIPA • @ NTP? • @ COD? Debt • Term • Rate • Amortization • Debt Service Coverage Ratio Equity / Tax Equity • Structure of investment: • Sale leaseback? • Partnership Flip? • Other
  10. 10. The Essential Financing Docs 1. The Project: • Solar PV design / system output summary • Product selection, cut sheets & warranties • Timeline / realistic status & capital timeline 2. Site control document (lease, license, easement) 3. PPA with financeable terms 4. Host customer & Developer / EPC info: • Narrative/summary of business quals • (3) three years financial statements & CPA/Auditor prepared tax returns
  11. 11. Top PPA “Challenges” 1. “Floating” PPA rate – % discount PPA rate vs. utility pricing 2. No annual PPA rate increase 3. No early termination values, particularly for on premise systems 4. The contract risk is on the investor / financier – customer “cannot take any risk”
  12. 12. Top Financing “Challenges” 1. Sub-par product selection to make EPC costs work 2. Unrealistic developer / EPC expectations on structure / terms: • % of debt • Developer % carry in deal 3. Inflated SREC values which are not contracted 4. Unrealistic timing expectations on financing close
  13. 13. Scale Residential Solar into Small Commercial Josh Baston Revision Energy
  14. 14. For a smaller residential company, making the leap into small commercial can sometimes be intimidating.
  15. 15. Client Acquisition • Long term relationship building, the long view • Identifying benefits beyond just building the solar array. • Walk the walk with how your company acts. At ReVision we have become a certified B- Corp
  16. 16. Project Example: Maine Audubon • Small commercial install consisting of 6 trackers • Difficult Permitting • Key to have an ally whom you can get excited about the project and help push through roadblocks
  17. 17. Challenges • Getting businesses to look past a 3-4 year ROI • Lack of incentives puts more emphasis on relationship building • Getting businesses to see solar as part of being a contributing member of the growing sustainable community
  18. 18. Scalable Solar • Moving into small commercial can be a natural growth opportunity for a smaller company • Install a scalable product: something you are used to installing but just installing more of on a larger scale. Stick with string inverters and just do more of them. • Easier to mobilize for small commercial vs large commercial/utility scale
  19. 19. Tips for Keeping Costs in Check • For projects under 75kW or connecting to commercial buildings, 240V or 208V services can save in equipment costs. For larger projects 480/277V 3-phase services make more economic sense. • Preplan, have a project manager and electrician walk through the project and order equipment prior to the mobilization of the entire team, have a good list of tasks to be done so that when roadblocks are encountered installers can be re-deployed onto something else and don’t get left standing around.
  20. 20. Why Choose AER • Very scalable both in terms of planning for the current install and for planning for future expansion • The tracker is very terrain adaptable where you can deal with rolling fields and ledge which may prove challenging to traditional ground mounts. • One pallet shipping makes it easy both to store and to deploy on-site • Trackers are both aesthetically pleasing and exciting which make them a great sell to customers who are tying to get marketing value in addition to electricity production value.
  21. 21. Commercial Solar Project Development Doug MacDonald, AllEarth Renewables
  22. 22. Small Commercial Projects can be Simple and minimize the Balance of System costs. • Up to 75kW single phase or up to 250kW three phase projects can easily be designed using inexpensive 200A switching gear and 320A self contained metering. • Tracker farms in this scale, connect to (2) 200A combiner load centers, then back feed a 320A meter socket. Pole mounted transformers add to the simplicity and cost savings. • Saves in development and construction costs.
  23. 23. Big benefits to using AllEarth Solar Trackers for commercial projects • Tracker Projects are modular and easily scalable. • Because the DC design is pre cooked into the tracker, designing a larger tracker project is as easy as designing a parking lot lighting system. • AC design can easily be drawn up in one day by any master electrician. • Inverter AC capacity drives the design.
  24. 24. • Larger projects = larger returns – utilize economies of scale and efficient and repeatable development and permitting processes • Standardizing and streamlining the EPC and development process will further increase returns. • Document standardization critical both for financeability and cost savings
  25. 25. Siting Considerations • Minimize Shading • Dig readiness (trees/brush) • Tree and brush removal is costly and has more environmental impact. • Chose open sites. • Interconnect proximity • When dealing with longer wire runs, 3phase is always better than single phase from both utility and project perspectives • Any project over 150kW, 3ph is required
  26. 26. Software we use at AER • AutoCAD • Used for Electrical drawings and Site layout drawings • AutoCAD Maps vs AutoCAD LT – both work • Google EARTH Pro - Now free to general public • Great tool for initial site investigation - helpful for land area calculations • KML files – polygons and poly lines of usable project areas. • Good for identifying natural resources, wetlands, tree cover, historical imagery, Interconnection location. Use street view to see poles, three phase vs single phase, etc. • Solid Works • Used for standardized equipment layouts, pedestals, conduit layouts • Tools to identify and model shading: • SunEye • PV Watts, System Advisor, PV Syst • Hey What’s That (
  27. 27. Efficient Installation • Seek repeatable process – Manage EPC process – One contractor can do it all. – Follow lean principles Example: Helical Pile Base Simply base installation Install 20-30 bases per day per machine.
  28. 28. Cable In Conduit – 3 or 4 insulated conductors pre installed inside of HDPE conduit. – Handling and installation greatly simplified – With few exceptions use same wire sizes for ALL installations – Simple transition to above ground at both tracker and AC combiner panel – Reels come at 5000’ and fit on a standard spool trailer
  29. 29. Electrical One line Example, 500kW 3phase
  30. 30. Site Plan Example, 150kW yman
  31. 31. State of Vermont – 500kW each Project Note: A fixed rate PPA and bundled projects across nearly 20 state government utility accounts will save taxpayers more than $2,500,000 over the initial term with no cost and no financial risk. Utilizing virtual net metering policy for off-site project siting. State Government: Correctional Facilities and State Offices Size of Systems: 500kW Desire for Solar: Guaranteed budget savings / In line with state energy goals Project Structure: 20-Year PPA with 7-year buy-out option How secured customer agreement: RFP and guaranteed savings offered (fixed rate PPA vs. floating / indexed PPA)
  32. 32. 2.2MW, Claire Solar
  33. 33. Want More Information? Click here to gain access to the full Small Commercial Solar webinar!
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  35. 35. Questions? We’d love to hear from you! Email: Twitter: @allearthrenew