The Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV) will develop a collaborative and replicable approach that will guide 15 participating colleges through the process of preparing for, and purchasing, solar PV installations.
The Commonwealth of Virginia, with only 6MW of installed solar as of 2013, trails far behind its neighboring states in the Mid-Atlantic region. The lack of incentive structures and inability to utilize third-party ownership models combined with Virginia’s voluntary renewable portfolio standard, below average electricity prices, and high installation costs, creates an environment in which making the case for solar is a challenge. CICV aims to expand solar in Virginia by working with 15 colleges to develop and deploy solar on campuses across the commonwealth. These schools collectively serve approximately 30,000 students, cover 3,500 acres and consume more than 125 million KWh of purchased energy annually, generated predominantly from coal. Through this project, CICV aims to develop collaborative and replicable multi-year Solar Master Plans for participating colleges. Feasibility assessments will help determine specific opportunities for solar deployment and a joint solar procurement program will leverage the collective purchasing power to reduce costs and result in the deployment of at least 30MW of solar PV within a five-year period.
The successful implementation of the multi-year solar deployment plan depends not only on an appropriate plan, but on the increased knowledge and capacity of faculty and facility management staff at participating colleges. CICV will arrange professional development workshops for faculty and staff to expand their understanding of solar markets, financing, and engagement practices. The project also aims to engage and educate students, with some colleges awarding credits to those students involved in bringing the proposed projects to fruition. Students will gain hands-on experience that will provide them with valuable professional skills
The reach of this project will extend beyond campus to help address the local solar market conditions, including permitting, zoning, interconnection and financing. The project team will proactively engage a diverse group of stakeholders including participating college faculty and staff, local governments, state regulators, and electric utilities and identify opportunities to advance solar readiness in local communities. The CICV team will leverage a solar roadmap platform developed by Optony to enable hometown local governments and utilities to benchmark their existing solar policy framework to national best practices and develop an actionable path forward to better enable solar deployment.
In order to drive down the cost of solar deployment, CICV aims to leverage group purchasing power to achieve a minimum 10% discount for solar installations on participating colleges and to reduce soft costs by utilizing existing expertise of campus faculty and staff.
The CICV project team developed a learning module to guide students in the analysis of utility regulatory filings. This module uses Ferrum College as a case study to analyze the potential impact of deploying solar PV systems under Appalachian Power Company’s (APCo) proposed Renewable Generation Purchase Rider on CICV member colleges in APCo’s service territory. To view the APCo Learning Module, click here.
As part of the effort to build the capacity of stakeholders to implement the Master Plan, CICV will hosted a training workshop in 2015 for faculty and staff to learn about the technical and financial aspects of solar PV deployment. During the workshop, CICV identified opportunities to leverage the solar projects to create real-life learning experiences for faculty, students, and the larger community through solar curriculum and student engagement. CICV will continue this capacity building work by convening stakeholder conferences twice a year. The project team aims to create a learning network to highlight progress and work products that will contain essential tools and resources to guide those considering solar deployment on their campuses.
During their first year of their Solar Market Pathways project, CICV developed a collaborative and replicable approach that will guide campuses through the process of preparing for, and purchasing, solar PV installations. Each participating college has created a coordinating council that worked closely with the CICV team to develop the multi-year Solar Master Plan. As a first step, CICV, together with technical partner Optony, conducted feasibility and site assessments at each of the 15 participating colleges to determine specific opportunities for solar deployment at each campus. Optony and CICV worked closely with the coordinating council at each participating college to collect detailed historical energy consumption data and utility specific-information and is investigating the challenges and opportunities for each site.
The project team completed feasibility reports for participating colleges which serve as key tools in the internal decision making process at each participating college. Each includes site assessments, historical energy consumption, available incentives, interconnection points, etc. has been integrated into the Solar Master Plan, providing the basis for the multi-year 30MW solar deployment plan for participating colleges. The Solar Master Plan also includes a Virginia solar market overview, a master facility list, detailed deployment plan, procurement form documents, and internal stakeholder engagement strategies to build internal support.
In late 2015, CICV announced the issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Solar Photovoltaic Projects on behalf of 15 colleges and universities participating in its Solar Market Pathways (SMP) project. The potential capacity for solar generation across 15 colleges in this RFP has been estimated at over 37 Megawatts (MW) and consists of distributed solar projects as well as solar farms. The deployment of 37 MW would represent a significant increase in existing solar generation capacity in Virginia, and is expected to present a great opportunity for energy cost savings among the 15 participating colleges and universities. The projects were split into bundles to ensure construction completion before end of 2016 and to reduce soft costs such as acquisition and administration. The project team will select vendors by spring 2016 and construction will begin by June. A second and third round of RFPs will be released in late 2016 and early 2017 to deploy solar on additional feasible sites owned by the participating colleges. Ultimately, the project team will develop a collective procurement guidebook primed for replication.