Rocky Mountain Institute Issues Request for Proposals to Bring Solar Power to Eastern Colorado

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Proposed installation of 16.75 MW solar portfolio for six rural Colorado electric cooperatives.

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) today issued a request for proposals (RFP) to develop 16.75 megawatts (MW) of community-scale solar generation on behalf of six rural electric cooperatives based in eastern Colorado.

The participating electric cooperatives are: Highline Electric Association; K.C. Electric Association; Morgan County Rural Electric Association; Mountain Parks Electric, Inc.; Mountain View Electric Association, Inc. and Y-W Electric Association, Inc. Participating electric cooperatives are motivated to generate economic savings for their members through local clean power. If bidder prices indicate significant savings within a larger regional portfolio, total requested capacity may expand and the six cooperatives would consider expanding the RFP to include new purchasing entities.

Community-scale solar—defined as photovoltaic solar projects with an output of between 0.5 MW and 5 MW—is an emerging market segment that lies between large, utility-scale solar infrastructure and individual, residential-sited installations.

RMI is supporting about 100 MW of ongoing community-scale solar projects in New Mexico, New York, and Colorado, and is exploring new projects in the South and Southeast, including Texas and North Carolina. This is in line with RMI’s goal of directly supporting 1 GW of new community-scale solar systems by 2020—the equivalent of two average-sized coal plants. In 2016, RMI supported the procurement of more than 60 MW of community-scale solar through three RFP processes.

As RMI’s engagements to enable power purchase agreements (PPAs) for new community-scale solar developments have produced prices as low as 40 percent below median bids, interest in the market segment has grown, and RMI is expanding its development efforts across the country. For example, prices for a recent RMI-managed procurement of community-scale solar in New Mexico came in at $50 per megawatt hour and below—competitive with the price of fossil fuel-fired generation across much of the country, when accounting for full cost of delivery to consumers.

“The increasing interest we’ve seen across the country in developing community-scale solar is a testament to the value this clean, abundant resource provides to communities and industrial customers who are committed to delivering sustainably sourced energy at a competitive cost,” Thomas Koch Blank, a principal at RMI, said. “We are pleased to expand our work to eastern Colorado, growing the overall market and benefiting a broader array of customers than are currently being served by this technology.”

By occupying a middle ground, community-scale solar combines attractive attributes that utility-scale and rooftop solar installations can’t capture. For example, community-scale solar installations can access similar economies of scale found in utility-scale solar while also providing the benefits of a distributed energy resource, making community-scale solar economically competitive without subsidies.

RMI supports all aspects of the community-scale solar procurement process, including creation of a competitive RFP, administration, evaluation and negotiation. The organization provides co-ops and other buyers with recommendations based on economic analysis and data-driven evaluation, and continues to support buyers during negotiation and PPA execution and throughout the development and construction process.

Commitments of intent to participate in the RFP are due by March 31, 2017, with questions and clarifications due by April 12. Final bids are due by April 25, 2017.

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About Rocky Mountain Institute
Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)—an independent nonprofit founded in 1982—transforms global energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future. It engages businesses, communities, institutions, and entrepreneurs to accelerate the adoption of market-based solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing.

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Todd Zeranski
Rocky Mountain Institute
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