Everywhere you look in Georgia, you see open tracks of land going unused and vast rooftops being cooked by the sun. Normally, these sights just blend into the landscape, but as developers of solar projects, we see potential. Enough energy from the sun hits the Earth every hour to power the planet for a year and now, local utility companies are beginning to adopt more solar power into their energy mix without raising rates on their customers.
Utility distributed generation solar programs
Utility distributed generation solar programs, such as Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative and Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Solar Solutions Initiative now offer 20-year power purchase agreements (PPA) for grid-tied systems up to 1MW. Wildly popular with commercial businesses, these programs have managed to strike a balance between offering a high enough incentive to attract participation, but not too high as to cause upward pressure on rates. This balance may be a model for the sustainable adoption of renewable energy sources in the generation mix moving forward. In fact, demand for Georgia Power’s program last year was so high that winners had to be chosen by lottery.
Challenges of utility solar programs
Based on the response to these programs last year, there is no shortage of solar developers wanting to participate; however, locating sites suitable for solar development is a challenge. In addition, property owners located within the utility service area who cannot themselves use available tax incentives or afford the upfront cost of solar want to participate, but don’t know how. These property owners realize that they can lease their surplus land or roof to solar developers and earn revenue from an otherwise non-performing asset, but don’t know if their land or roof space is suitable for solar development. So, here we have solar developers looking for suitable host sites and property owners looking for willing solar developers. How do property owners determine if their space is suitable for solar development and then communicate that to the stable of ready, willing and able solar developers?
The Bright Spaces program solution
That’s where Bright Spaces comes in. Bright Spaces addresses this gap between developer and host by pre-qualifying host sites for free and then provides a platform for solar developers and host sites to get together to participate in the utility solar programs.
Determining a suitable solar site
Hosting a solar development is not as easy as simply having a plot of land. Property owners must determine if their property is suitable for solar development. A number of factors come in to determine whether property is suitable for solar development, such as a nearby interconnection point with the grid, topography, geo-technical, shading, weight load, permitting and much more. A suitable solar development site also includes setting realistic expectations for property owners. A property owner is not going to get rich leasing out of five-acre parcel of land for 20 years. The utilities can only pay so much without putting upward pressure on rates. While it’s enough to make distributed solar development feasible in Georgia, margins are tight and developers can only pay so much to lease the property.
Bridging the gap between developer and host
Other local solar companies take a customer-centric approach to solar development, where they offer to install solar panels for residential and commercial customers. While this approach addresses that particular segment of the market, it does not adequately address the specific needs for participation in solar utility programs. By taking a utility-centric approach, Bright Spaces is able to bridge the gap between developer and host.
Reducing development risk
Bright Spaces does all of the preliminary host site due diligence, which saves time and resources for developers. Taking out some of the initial development risk for developers is even more critical this year in light of some of the program changes from last year. For example, last year, application fees were refundable and PPA winners were allowed to assign that winning PPA to any of its other projects. This year, no assignments are allowed and the application fee is non-refundable. The stakes are higher this year because there is more development risk upfront. Bright Spaces is designed to reduce upfront development risk while improving access to suitable host sites.
Our development services and platform saves time, money and resources for both developers and host sites, making participation in the solar utility programs easier and more affordable for all stakeholders. If you’re an owner of that unused tract of land or baking rooftop and you’re located within one of these utility service areas, let us show you the potential for solar development and how to generate an additional source of revenue.
Did we pique your interest? Do you have any questions about the Bright Spaces program? Just let us know — we’d love to answer them.