Solar Project Development Process: Understanding the Steps
The development of utility-scale solar projects is a long and complex process, requiring extensive expertise. Urban Grid provides fully integrated solutions to bring a utility-scale solar project from conception to construction which involves six key steps discussed below.
Key Steps of the Utility-Scale Solar Project Development Process
- Identify Optimal Site: The foundation of the successful development of a utility-scale solar power project is identifying a site suitable hosting a project. Key characteristics of a feasible site include access to electric utility infrastructure, land that is flat and cleared of trees, no wetland or floodplain impacts, no impact on protected ecosystems and organisms, no impact on cultural or archaeological resources, and locations where our development will provide net gains to the local community. The majority of this work is done as a “desktop analysis” using the best available mapping tools.
- Land Acquisition: Once a site is deemed to be a quality location for a utility-scale solar project, we will enter into an Option to Purchase or Option to Lease Agreement to secure the land. The “Option” portion of the agreement allows the developer to complete their studies and approvals without the fear of losing the property in the meantime. The development process during the Option Period can take 3-4 years and involves significant investment from the developer, so it is key to maintain a solid partnership relationship between the landowner and developer. The landowner can continue to use their land as they wish during the Option Period, and the developer compensates the landowner for the Option on the land.
- Interconnection Design and Application: The next step in the solar project development process involves managing interconnection to the electric grid. Proper interconnection with the electric grid is crucial to a successful solar project. Once a site is under Option, our experienced team of interconnection engineers assesses interconnection at the target location and develops necessary applications. Interconnection is one of the most critical, difficult and costly aspects of project development and as solar project development continues to expand, grids will become more congested leading to increased difficulties.
- Site Environmental and Cultural Assessment: Even with an extensive desktop environmental review utility-scale solar development requires extensive studies to be completed to ensure the project has no negative impact on existing ecosystems, threatened and endangered species, and cultural and archaeological resources. As a developer, we dedicate resources to evaluating our project sites to ensure that a solar project will not negatively impact the existing environment. Further, the soil conditions and topography are evaluated to ensure the project can be constructed efficiently.
- Local and State Permits and Approvals: One of the most challenging aspects of utility-scale solar development is achieving all required state and local approvals. At the local level, a significant amount of time is spent either progressing a project through an existing process for zoning approvals or in some cases working closely with the local government to develop and implement new zoning ordinances to address utility-scale solar. Additionally, most states require projects to complete state-level approval. Urban Grid prides itself on quality solar project development while being a good neighbor, which requires working closely with local stakeholders to ensure their concerns are addressed. More and more, project success hinges on a developers’ ability to navigate the local permitting process which requires a symbiotic relationship with local government, as well as community business interests and residents.
- Project Construction: From ground-breaking to final deliverable of the completed, operational plant, a solar project developer must deploy a stellar construction management crew to assemble and direct skilled tradespeople for efficient and expedited plant construction. The team should complete the project within 6-12 months, depending on project size.
- Ongoing Operation & Maintenance: Once a utility-scale solar project is placed in service, it requires very little in terms of operations and maintenance to continue efficiently producing clean, renewable energy. In most cases, a separate operations and maintenance provider is hired to monitor, perform ongoing maintenance, troubleshoot and correct problems, and even maintain the grounds. Compared to other generation sources, the total cost and time invested in operations are very low, making solar one of the most efficient energy generation resources available.
When it’s time to realize your dream of green business operations with clean energy, partner with the leader in solar project development. Contact Urban Grid today.