RMI’s Solar RFP Aims to ‘Lighten’ Economic Load in Eastern Colorado

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) – a nonprofit organization dedicated to cost-effectively shifting businesses, communities, and institutions to energy efficiency and renewables – issued a request for proposals (RFP) on March 14 to develop 16.75-MW of community-scale solar generation on behalf of six rural electric cooperatives based in eastern Colorado.

The participating electric cooperatives, which are interested in saving money for their members through purchases of local clean power, are Highline Electric Association; K.C. Electric Association; Morgan County Rural Electric Association; Mountain Parks Electric; Mountain View Electric Association, and Y-W Electric Association.

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 already 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.

Last year, RMI supported the procurement of more than 60-MW of community-scale solar through three RFP processes. Indeed, 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. For example, prices for a recent RMI-managed procurement of community-scale solar in New Mexico came in at $50 per MWh 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.”

Community-scale solar installations can access similar economies of scale to those achieved with utility-scale solar, while also providing the benefits of a distributed energy resource – making community-scale solar economically competitive without subsidies, said RMI.

RMI supports all aspects of the community-scale solar procurement process, including creation of a competitive RFP, administration, evaluation and negotiation. The organization provides coops 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, with questions and clarifications due by April 12. Final bids are due by April 25.

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