By Jamie Evans
From the June 2014 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
As the demand for renewable energy continues to grow, more facility managers (fms) are looking for ways to improve sustainability with large-scale solar programs that establish their environmental commitment while providing proportionate financial rewards. For those who manage multiple properties, “going green” at one facility alone can be challenging enough. Implementing renewable energy across a portfolio of properties can seem even more daunting.
The typical, old school model for solar projects, still practiced today, requires the engagement of a third-party vendor at each growth phase. Fms must research, negotiate, and ultimately hire a firm for the initial design; then they begin the hunt again for an installation company; and then again for an investment firm and so on until they have all of the partners needed to complete the project. Financing in particular becomes difficult in these traditional models as numerous contracts are negotiated and drawn up—a time consuming and often repetitious process.
This fragmented model raises barriers to a successful implementation and increases costs in single-site solar installations, so one can imagine the stress it can create for decision makers developing solar at multiple sites. Finding and vetting appropriate vendors for one facility can be difficult, but doing so at a number of different locations, and even across state lines, is an all consuming endeavor. Even if all relevant third parties are secured at each project site, numerous phases of coordination loom ahead. The complexity of this current model creates a seemingly endless path, often preventing fms from going solar across properties.
For fms working on these types of projects to meet their sustainability goals in an efficient and cost-effective manner, streamlining the process is essential. To do this, the industry is shifting towards a new model, and innovative solutions have emerged as a response. Now, instead of keeping track of multiple contracts, arranging meetings and calls with many individuals, and worrying about varying project timelines, fms can work with one fully integrated partner that brings the tasks together.
These types of partners can leverage networks of experienced solar project managers that know what is required and who to work with at every stage, regardless of the scope or location of the properties involved. They propel projects forward, selecting developers and installers, securing permits, connecting with the grid, procuring tax incentives, and executing favorable legal and financial terms. Contracts and financial deals that typically get burdened with legal review are consolidated and structured more efficiently, speeding up the process and reducing costs.
Providing services that span from construction and financing to operation and maintenance, the partner becomes a trusted point of contact for fms leading solar installations across multiple sites. They understand that every organization is different and that each project has distinct needs. These unbiased industry partners don’t endorse one brand of solar equipment, but instead work with companies to help determine the best systems for each facility based on engineering, financial, and sustainability goals or requirements.
Fms already know the reasons why they should be looking into solar options for their properties. Outdated solar models stunt this long-term growth and development by exacerbating the fragmentation of the process and adding barriers to what instead can be a comprehensive, streamlined experience.
In response to frustrated expressions of fms overseeing broad portfolios of projects, this new wave of end-to-end solar solutions provides support at the start and, perhaps most importantly, down the line. Having this type of backing and security reduces stress and eliminates worry about brand management and reputation.
Multi-site and multi-state solar projects do not have to become a mess of numerous contracts, vendors, and coordination concerns. Thanks to these recent shifts in the solar industry, more and more fms might consider pursuing multi-site solar energy installations.
Evans is managing director and head of U.S. Eco Solutions for Panasonic Eco Solutions North America. He joined Panasonic in 2011 and previously served as director of project finance at the company. He holds a BA in Environmental Science and Economics from Duke University and an MBA from Columbia Business School.