Solar Builder

NOV-DEC 2018

Solar Builder focuses on the installation/construction of solar PV systems. We cover the latest PV technology (modules, mounting, inverters, storage, BOS) and equip installers/contractors with tips and tools to make informed purchasing decisions.

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Page 23 of 47

"They said 'we have a client interested in landfill solar projects, and there's a couple sites we're looking at.' We were also working on the LEEDCo offshore wind project at the time, and one day we thought 'what if we bundled these together?'" Foley says. With this being one of the new department's first major proj- ects, Foley "didn't want to get criticized for buying overly expen- sive power" when he first took this proposal to council review. The project outcome was easy to pitch: It is expected to save the county $3 million over 25 years, offsetting about 7 or 8 percent of the load for 14 county buildings. But getting there would involve an almost unprecedented level of regulatory and financial complexity. Let's start with the end structure: The City of Brooklyn owns the landfill and is leasing it to IGS Solar, a 20-year deal. Cleveland Public Power (CPP) is buying the power produced by the solar array on the site and is then reselling it to the county. The county is then providing that power to those 14 buildings. A three-party agree- ment is complex and nontraditional on its own, but getting there was rife with unique problems. Problem 1: Service territories First order of business for the county was changing energy pro- viders from the large investor-owned utility to CPP in order to structure a long-term PPA. Unfortunately, the selected site was not actually in CPP territory. To make it work, the utility agreed to build a power line extension from a nearby substation and bring the landfill into its territory. Problem 2: PPA regulations The story of this PPA alone is enough for a novel, but here's our best summary: The utility and city agreed that a third-party owned PPA was the best route to go. As Foley says it: "Having that third- party investor-owner helps reduce the costs of the total project for us." However, Ohio restricts counties to signing 10-year power agreements, making the standard 20- or 25-year PPA impossible. This gets back to the state not prioritizing renewable energy devel- opment. After some lengthy negotiating, the PPA was structured as a 10-year deal with an option for another 10 years and a chance to purchase it outright after year six. Getting this all approved was way more difficult than it sounds. Problem 3: Surprise tax code change IGS Solar was brought into the deal in summer of 2017 to own the asset and finish the development. A subsidiary of IGS Energy, one of the largest retail energy providers in the country, IGS Solar is familiar with entering at any phase of development but does like to enter into the fray when there are some negotia- ble points of the contract still in place but not finalized. The most enticing part of the deal to IGS was the county budgeted funds to put forward as a prepayment for the electricity at the time of commissioning. "We were excited because it was Ohio, first and foremost," says Patrick Smith, VP of IGS Solar, which is located in Dublin, Ohio. "Our parent company serves a lot of customers here but hadn't had any real meaningful solar development in the state, so this was an opportunity to make a big impact statewide, and the complexity was interesting for us." Cut to November 2017 when Trump finalized the tax code revi- sions. One of the revisions was a small thing regarding — you guessed it — the tax structure for energy sold through a prepay- ment. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, this key part of the deal would be gone, and Smith indicated to us that removing the prepayment would have put this project in jeopardy. "The project was high risk if it went into the next calendar year," Smith says. "We spent a lot of time as a team between all of the par- ties — we had about six weeks to finalize it from when the ruling came out to make the deadline." The stakeholders hustled over the next six weeks, with several public officials working voluntarily during their winter vacation to get this deal finalized and signed on Dec. 30, 2018, just beat- ing the deadline. "This project was made possible because of a public-private part- nership with so many parties, during a really tough time to be work- ing," Smith says. "With good communication and getting everyone to the table, these deals can be put together so everyone wins." By the time we get to the construction of the actual project itself, everything seems tame, especially for Conti Solar, which has more than 130 MW of landfill solar experience (about 20 percent of its installed capacity). "From a size and technical perspective, this project fell right in our sweet spot," says Chris Ichter, business development manager for Conti Solar. "We always try to use local labor and equipment where possible, and there was a really big push from the county to do just that. The only regional issue we encountered was the weather in the beginning and by working diligently we were able to make the most out of the dry days. We had to be careful to not disturb the landfill cap and only use equipment with tracks unless otherwise approved by the EPA." P R O J E C T O F T H E Y E A R G O L D 24 N OV E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 8

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