FINDINGS #8, December 2013
On-Site PV Guidance Report Offers Valuable Information for Project Implementers
In 2011, GSA contracted with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to collect critical knowledge gained from developing and implementing GSA’s 63 newest on-site photovoltaic (PV) solar energy projects. The study was supported by GSA’s Green Proving Ground (GPG) program with the intent of optimizing how the agency locates, sizes and funds future projects for a maximum return on investment. The resulting lessons learned, best practices and case studies were compiled into a robust resource that also contains guidance on project considerations such as funding, incentives, interconnection and permitting. On-Site PV Guidance aims to help future project teams maximize their projects’ chances for success and minimize the risk of underperformance, and may also be useful to other real estate organizations with interests in PV projects.
What We Did
EXPERTS RESEARCHED PV POLICY AND SURVEYED PROJECT TEAMS
NREL researched existing literature to identify a broad set of policy challenges and risks involved in on-site PV deployment, then surveyed GSA project teams to collect information on the specific challenges they faced and their respective outcomes. Following review of the survey results, NREL conducted interviews with a subset of the respondents and aggregated the findings and industry research into lessons learned and best practices. GSA supplemented NREL’s research with case studies from its project teams, and both organizations provided additional reference material and links to existing guidance.
What We Evaluated
STUDY CAPTURED PROJECT CHALLENGES AND LESSONS LEARNED
The survey captured both project-specific and general information on the types of challenges PV project teams experienced in the following categories: project management, site, interconnection, technical, economic, incentives, weather, lack of expertise, procurement, state or local laws and regulations, conflicts with agency or site mission or plans, net metering, and other utility issues. Respondents were asked about the effects of each challenge on their projects; whether there was an action, best practice, or key success factor employed that lessened the impact; and the potential impact on their project if the challenge had not been resolved. The survey also collected data on project location, utility provider and PV system capacity— factors that determine policies, rules, and contractual forms.
[*Projects in NREL Study, by System Capacity. Of the 63 projects included, capacity ranges widely]
What We Concluded
LEARNING FROM THE PAST ADDS VALUE TO THE FUTURE
With more than 9,600 assets and over 354 million square feet of workspace, GSA has enormous potential for implementing renewable energy technologies, including solar PV, to reduce energy use and associated emissions. By learning from the experiences of their predecessors and from the additional guidance provided in On-Site PV Guidance, project teams can maximize their projects’ chances for success while avoiding pitfalls such as schedule delays, adverse financial impacts, and reduced quality. One of the most remarkable findings from this study is the modest effort needed to identify and avoid these pitfalls; sometimes it is only a matter of ensuring early in the project that the right people are on the team and in contact with the appropriate experts.
There are several excellent resources in On-Site PV Guidance that should be explored by federal agencies and others who are contemplating implementing a PV project. Two sections of the report also function as standalone guidance for future PV project implementers: the Photovoltaic (PV) Project Considerations Guide and GSA PV Project Lessons Learned and Best Practices.
For more information, contact Kevin Powell firstname.lastname@example.org Green Proving Ground Program Manager.
Reference above to any specific commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof.