Solar for WI K-12 Schools: Resource Center
We've collected resources and put together video content with the intent to assist school administrative teams, boards, staff, students, facilities crew, or other school affiliates (“Solar Planning Teams”) throughout all stages in the solar project development process. We present information about the technology, site analysis, project finance, and procurement strategies used to deliver on-site solar. You can use the resources from start to finish or you can select certain section a la carte, based on your school's needs. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. Thanks for joining us!
Fundamental Resources for a WI School Solar Project
- Dr. Ronald Russ, Superintendent Merton Community School District - Located in Waukesha County, Merton just completed installation of a 389 kW DC PV system in November 2019, which is largely financed through a low-interest loan and is expected to save the district $70,000 in energy costs each year.
- Andy Weiland, Business Administrator, Oregon School District - The district has had several PV systems on various schools for several years, and is now planning to incorporate a solar PV system over 500kW into new construction of a net zero elementary school
- Lee Black, Buildings & Grounds Director, Darlington Community School District - In January 2016, the district completed the installation of a 156 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system on the roof of their elementary middle school building. The system is expected to generate approximately 200,000 kWh of electricity per year, or about 19% of the entire district’s use, saving them about $12,500 in usage charges and roughly $3,250 in demand charges.
- Merton Community School District (2019) - 389kW DC - installed on both Merton Intermediate and Merton Primary, saving the district $70,000 annually.
- Oregon School District (2020) - 649kW DC on Forest Edge Elementary School, the first net-zero school in WI.
- Madison Area Technical College (2018) - 1.85 MW
- Darlington Elementary/Middle School (2015)- 156 kW
- Northland Pines School District: Elementary, Middle, & High School (2017) - 331 total kW
- NABCEP Certified Installer Locator (website) - online database of professional certified solar installers
- MREA Business Member Directory (website) - list of our business members, searchable by PV installer, among other categories
- Focus on Energy Trade Allies (website) - searchable database of contractors and service providers who partner with Focus to deliver energy efficiency and renewable energy products and expertise to WI residents and businesses.
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Solar PV Basics and Intro
Welcome! In this section, we introduce the objectives of this resource center and your responsibilities to best utilize this large collection of resources. Consider it akin to the first day of class, where the professor goes over the syllabus, but in this case, you should pay attention! The topical videos will also introduce how to use and develop a roadmap or business case document, and will provide an overview of basic PV market trends for the U.S. as well as Wisconsin and K-12 schools.
Early Considerations for a Solar Project
After understanding general market trends, the first real phase in PV project development is to set your solar planning team up for success. To begin, this module presents a course thread-line, connecting important key points and lessons presented throughout this course to provide your solar planning team an understanding of the bigger PV development picture. We then present key considerations to be entertained early on within the process to increase chances of moving forward with a successful PV project for your school, including educational considerations and how to identify solar motivations and align them with project development.
Energy Use and Analysis
The next step in PV project development is analyzing your school's energy use-- meaning you need to get your hands on some of those utility bills! This section will lay out some of the steps your solar planning team should take to understand the school's energy use and explains how this information informs the PV development process. In this module, we introduce energy analysis topics including: energy generation mix, load profiles, utility tariffs, rate designs, PV system sizing, and energy analysis tools.
It's important to note, that you need not develop and analyze your whole solar PV system internally. This section is intended to ensure you have a basic understanding in how solar will impact your energy use and electricity bills. Most solar contractors will provide you a site assessment and financial analysis free of charge. While schools are required to procure solar through a competitive bidding process, you can still choose to consult with a contractor early on in the process for site assessments and financial analysis, In the top of the course, we've compiled resources to help you find a contractor early on in the process.
Assessing and Selecting a Site for Your Solar Project
After gaining a basic understanding of your school's energy use and utility information, the next step in developing a PV project is conducting an assessment of your site (i.e. determining potential location(s) for a PV system and identifying other electrical and structural information). This module discusses common best practices and resources that site assessors utilize to prioritize and select ideal sites for PV development. Please watch the module videos to gain an understanding of the role that site assessments play in the PV development process. Then, use the resources to internally conduct your own site assessment, collecting information on your school's potential PV site(s) to be included in your RFP.
NOTE: It is not necessary to have an outside party conduct a site assessment. It is also not necessary to internally do any of this work either before developing your RFP. However, doing this work ahead of time, and including this information on your RFP makes it much easier for a company to develop a bid for your school and will help you receive quality bids.
Solar Project Financial Modeling
An important factor in PV project planning is financial modeling of your PV system. Module 5 introduces you to PV ownership options, comparing the risks and opportunities of various ownership models available to WI K-12 schools. We also introduce you to Solar Project Builder, MREA's financial modeling tool. We highly encourage you to use the tool to view, compare, and analyze the financial value and return of various ownership options for your school's PV system.
Again, oftentimes solar contractors can provide you a preliminary proposal featuring a financial analysis along with a free site assessment early on in the process (see examples in topic resources below). However, it is important to have a basic understanding yourself of all of this so you can understand how they reached the numbers and conclusions they did. This topic is intended to help provide you that information.
Bid-Ready Solar Projects: RFP Development
Once you've made the decision to move forward with a project, your team needs to prepare your solar PV project for competitive solicitation. Topics in this section include shaping your project for the market, prioritizing and effectively communicating your "must haves" and preferences, best practices for writing solar RFPs, and suggestions for key components of your RFP including a technical components and evaluation criteria.
Running a Competitive Solicitation & Bid Evaluation
This final section discusses how to get the most out of your school's PV competitive solicitation evaluation process. Topics include a general overview of competitive solicitation process, things to consider prior to going to market, various instruments for market interaction, and designing award negotiation and management to maximize confidence in your solicitation process, outcomes, and selected contractor.