February 2, 2012 | Leave A Comment
Portland Community Solar RFP
The Portland Bureau of planning and sustainability recently released an RFP (request for proposal) for “Private-Sector Partnerships to Finance Community-Supported Solar Electric Systems on Public Facilities”. In layman’s terms, an RFP to help generate models for community supported solar energy projects on public facilities.
Not everyone has the ability to install solar panels on their home. They might be renters instead of homeowners, have a low credit score, have a roof with too much shade or an improper orientation, not have the funds for a residential size system, or live in a condo. There are numerous reasons why solar doesn’t work for everyone even if they are enthusiastic about the technology.
Non profits, schools, and public buildings also struggle to be able to install solar. Even though many of these institutions have ideal rooftops and sites for solar, they lack the tax appetite to make effective use of the available incentives. Without outside grant money, there is little financial incentive for these institutions to install solar panels.
What if there could be a way to connect the community members who want to be a part of a solar project but can’t with the non-profts and schools that need solar the most?
Community solar is a way to connect community members, businesses, and non-profits in a collaborative way that benefits all. There are various models that have been used across the country with varying degrees of success. To read more about these different approaches have a look at our past article on community solar programs.
The Portland community solar RFP devised a simple flowchart that helps conceptualize the community driven approach.
At the center of the diagram is a local for profit business with a tax appetite that can benefit from tax incentives. The business initially owns the system and gets a 30% federal tax credit as well as the accelerated depreciation. The business also receives monthly production payments that come from Oregon’s feed-in tariff program. To make the deal economically viable for a business a part of the upfront cost would also need to be provided by community members. In exchange for community financial support, the members can receive either monetary reimbursement or some kind of tangible benefit (a coupon, retail item).
The non-profit/school/public facility is the site host and would be the beneficiary of a reduced energy bill and in the case of a school would have the educational benefits associated with having a solar array.