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Guide to Writing a Successful Solar RFP Response

Updated: 3 days ago

solar RFP

Numerous government agencies, educational facilities, non-profits, and businesses are installing solar energy systems to reduce operating costs and decrease carbon emissions. Organizations commonly issue a solar request for proposal (RFP) to get bids from qualified contractors for a given PV project.

Creating high-quality solar RFP responses is critical for being selected and awarded many commercial renewable energy projects. Read on to learn about how solar RFPs work and how to boost your RFP close rate for solar projects.

What is a solar RFP?

A solar RFP announces a solar energy project and solicits proposals from qualified contractors. Government agencies, educational institutions, businesses, and non-profit organizations commonly issue solar RFPs to receive competitive bids for a photovoltaic project. They outline the photovoltaic product or service requirements, bidding process, and contract requirements.

Organizations use the solar RFP process to obtain comparable bids for solar energy installations that meet the project goals. There are a variety of resources available to organizations issuing RFPs for PV arrays, including the American Cities Climate Challenge On-Site Solar Request for Proposals template and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL’s) Writing Solar Requests for Proposals (RFPs): Lessons from NREL’s University PV Implementation Assistance Program.

What information is provided in an RFP for solar projects?

A well-written solar RFP commonly contains the following information to solicit bids from PV contractors:

  • Solar Project Overview and Purpose

  • Scope of Work

  • Solar Procurement Schedule

  • PV Proposal Requirements

  • Solar Proposal Evaluation

  • RFP Attachments

Solar Project Overview and Purpose

This information includes the project summary and goals, including information on the solar project site, annual clean energy production, preferred asset ownership structure (direct ownership vs. a solar power purchase agreement (PPA)), project O&M, and solar system monitoring. It will likely specify if it is a rooftop solar system or a ground-mounted array and provide information on the facility load data, electrical service, roof or soil conditions, shading, and solar site limitations.

Scope of Work

This section highlights the solar installation company’s responsibilities and requirements, such as design guidelines, technical requirements, a solar system commissioning plan, project ownership, solar energy output, and roles and responsibilities.

Solar RFP respondents must create a bid that meets all applicable building and electrical code and utility interconnection requirements. GreenLancer can provide solar plan sets and engineering stamps required in the commercial solar permitting process, plus a team of support specialists to help you navigate any AHJ in the country to get your project to PTO.

Solar Procurement Schedule

This section includes project dates and timelines for executing the solar project. The procurement schedule commonly includes receiving solar RFP responses, evaluating project bids, negotiating and signing solar contracts, and the PV installation timeline.

PV Proposal Requirements

Solar RFPs commonly include information on the format of proposals and may provide a standard response format to make it easier to compare PV proposals. Solar RFP responses typically contain:

Some solar RFPs may require supporting local, woman-owned, or minority-owned businesses and using local labor. Also, some projects may include a marketing or community education component, which should be addressed in the solar RFP response.

Evaluation of RFPs for Solar Projects

Organizations commonly disclose how they will evaluate solar proposals and may use a scoring matrix. This allows commercial solar installers to tailor their responses to meet the PV project goals determined by the government agency, business, organization, or institution.

Common criteria include contractor experience, compliance with code requirements, the quality of the technical proposal, cost-effectiveness, and timeliness of the implementation plan schedule. If your solar company doesn’t have in-house solar engineering services or they are beyond capacity, partnering with GreenLancer can help demonstrate your ability to effectively meet solar project permitting and engineering requirements in a timely manner.

Solar RFP Attachments

Organizations often include site photos, maps, plans, roof structural drawings, electrical line drawings of the building, electricity rates, and energy consumption data. In addition, it’s common to provide contract terms and conditions and cost proposal forms.

How to Respond to a Solar RFP

  1. Review the solar RFP to understand the client's goals and the scope of the project. Research the organization issuing the solar RPF to ensure you understand its goals, values, and past projects.

  2. Visit the solar project site and ask any relevant questions to ensure you thoroughly understand the PV project, including the scope of work, deliverables, deadlines, evaluation criteria, and RFP submission requirements.

  3. Determine whether your company can effectively meet the solar RFP deliverables. If so, assemble your team and gather the necessary data and documents.

  4. Create a draft of your solar RFP with input from your team. Ensure you demonstrate a clear understanding of the project's goals and challenges. Consider your company's strengths and how you can meet the solar RFP requirements.

  5. Seek feedback from your team on your solar RFP response.

  6. Edit the final solar RFP draft, so it is clear and concise.

  7. Submit your solar RFP response to the client by the due date.

solar PRF

How to Structure a Solar RFP Response

It's critical to organize your ideas with clear, concise, and persuasive content. Use graphs, charts, and images to enhance understanding. Although the following guidance can be helpful, refer to the solar RFP for how the organization wants you to structure your response.

Executive Summary

The executive summary is a critical component of your solar RFP response, serving as the first impression and a concise overview of your proposal. To craft a compelling executive summary:

  • Highlight Your Company’s Strengths: Begin by briefly introducing your company, emphasizing your expertise, experience, and unique selling points that make you the best choice for the project. Mention any relevant awards, certifications, or recognitions that add credibility.

  • Align with Solar RFP Requirements: Clearly state how your proposal meets or exceeds the requirements outlined in the RFP. Address the key objectives and desired outcomes of the project, demonstrating that you understand the client's needs.

  • Emphasize Value Proposition: Summarize the main benefits and value you offer, such as cost savings, innovative technology, superior service, or sustainability. This should answer the question of why the client should choose you over competitors.

Project Understanding and Approach

To demonstrate a clear understanding of the project and outline your approach:

  • Project Goals and Challenges: Explain your understanding of the project’s goals, desired outcomes, and any specific challenges that may arise. Show that you have considered the context and constraints of the project, such as location, budget, timeline, and regulatory requirements.

  • Proposed Methodologies: Outline the methodologies you will use to achieve the project’s goals. This could include your approach to site assessment, system design, installation, and maintenance. Highlight any innovative or efficient methods you employ.

  • Technologies and Strategies: Describe the specific technologies and strategies you will implement. This might include the types of solar panels, inverters, mounting systems, and monitoring solutions you plan to use. Explain why these choices are suitable for the project and how they will contribute to its success.

Detailed Work Plan

A detailed work plan provides a roadmap for project execution, demonstrating your preparedness and reliability:

  • Step-by-Step Plan: Break down the project into distinct phases, such as planning, procurement, installation, and commissioning. Provide a clear description of each phase and the tasks involved.

  • Timelines and Milestones: Include a project timeline with key milestones and deadlines. This will help the client understand the schedule and set clear expectations for project progression.

  • Deliverables: Specify the deliverables for each phase, such as design documents, progress reports, and final installation checks. Ensure these align with the client’s requirements and the RFP specifications.

Qualifications and Experience

Showcasing your qualifications to fulfill the solar RFP and experience builds trust and demonstrates your capability to deliver:

  • Relevant Experience: Highlight past projects that are similar in scope and complexity. Provide case studies or examples that showcase successful outcomes and client satisfaction.

  • Team Bios: Include resumes and bios of key team members who will be working on the project. Emphasize their relevant experience, expertise, and roles within your company. This reassures the client that skilled solar energy professionals will handle their project.

Financial Proposal

The financial proposal should be transparent, detailed, and justifiable:

  • Cost Breakdown: Provide a detailed breakdown of all costs associated with the project, including equipment, labor, permits, and any other expenses. Ensure that the costs are itemized and explained clearly.

  • Value Justification: Justify the costs by explaining the value you offer. This could include the quality of materials, advanced technology, efficient processes, and any additional services such as maintenance and support. Highlight any potential long-term savings or benefits to the client.

Risk Management

Identifying and minimizing risks demonstrates foresight and responsibility:

  • Potential Risks: Identify potential risks that could impact the project, such as supply chain issues, weather delays, or regulatory changes.

  • Mitigation Strategies: Outline your strategies for mitigating these risks. This could include contingency plans, insurance coverage, flexible timelines, and regular risk assessments. Demonstrating proactive risk management reassures the client of your ability to handle uncertainties.

Compliance and Certifications

Ensuring compliance and showcasing relevant certifications adds to your credibility:

  • Legal and Technical Compliance: Detail how your proposal complies with all legal, technical, and safety standards. This might include local building codes, electrical standards, and environmental regulations.

  • Certifications: Provide copies or descriptions of relevant certifications, such as NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) certifications, ISO standards, or other industry-recognized credentials. These demonstrate your commitment to quality and professional standards.

How are solar RFPs evaluated?

Organizations often use a point system to evaluate solar RFP responses, which commonly include:

  • Cost-effectiveness of the solar project

  • Technical approach

  • Implementation schedule

  • Qualifications and experience of solar installation company and team member experience

How to Win an RFP for a Solar Project

Writing a high-quality solar RFP response is critical for a high close rate, which begins with a thorough understanding of the proposed PV project. Visit the site to conduct a solar feasibility analysis and on-site solar survey.

Then, write a personalized RFP response with photos and other graphics that meet the project requirements, site limitations, and PV project goals. It is critical to highlight your solar company's expertise by providing information on past projects, team member experience, professional certifications, and references. Demonstrate that your company can meet the design, permitting, installation, operations, and maintenance aspects of the PV project.

In addition, provide supporting documentation about the solar system design, site modifications, solar equipment, warranties, electricity output estimates, etc. Avoid omitting key information and overloading the solar proposal with unnecessary data. Finally, create a realistic timeline for the solar project that satisfies the specifications in the solar RFP and submit your response before the deadline.

One of the best ways to manage and meet solar project timelines is to avoid permitting and interconnection delays. GreenLancer solar permitting and engineering services ensure a seamless permitting and interconnection process with a platform built specifically to streamline your workflow.

Sign-up today to shop GreenLancer’s network of solar permitting and engineering specialists.


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