Utilities reveals intent for solar garden contract

Filed under: high tech,Print,Utilities | Tags:, , ,

Colorado Springs Utilities announced Friday its intent to award a contract for the design, construction and operation of its newest Community Solar Garden project to a local company and its engineering partner.

The ITA was offered to Pikes Peak Solar Garden LLC, a joint venture of Springs-based SunShare LLC and Hawaii-headquartered Sunetric, according to the Oct. 11 announcement released through the Rocky Mountain E-Purchasing System. The deadline for bid proposals was Oct. 1.

“Colorado Springs Utilities will now enter into negotiations in order to reach a contractual agreement,” said Senior Contracting Agent Mark Saunders in the document. “In the event that agreement is not reached with the selected supplier, Colorado Springs Utilities reserves the right to reopen discussion with additional respondents.”

But SunShare founder and President David Amster-Olszewski said that the local solar photovoltaic company has every intention of accepting the offer and that he hopes to sign a contract by October’s end.

“I think that this project had been a long time in coming,” he said. “We absolutely plan to build the project in the first half of next year, by spring.”

Amster-Olszewski said that SunShare is currently tackling numerous projects at a total of eight sites in Colorado, while also looking to California and Minnesota — where Xcel Energy is also a major energy provider — for national expansion. This project has the potential to make up 15-20 percent of SunShare’s business in the first half of next year, Amster-Olszewski said.

The 500-kilowatt CSG project will bring the operational capacity of the city’s CSG program to an even 2 megawatts, according to Utilities spokesman Dave Grossman. He said that the completed 1.5 mW of operating capacity is fully allocated but only partially subscribed.

“The first two CSG’s (SunShare) are fully subscribed, but the third CSG (CEC) is only about 20 percent subscribed. Since the last CSG hasn’t been built (Solar Synergy) there are no active subscribers,” Grossman said in an email.

“I think that this project had been a long time in coming.”

– David Amster-Olszewski

The project was approved by City Council in a 6-3 vote on Aug. 14 after members rescinded the previous Council’s approval of a 10-megawatt expansion in April. Grossman said that the CSG program will cost each of Utilities’ 189,000 residential electric customers an average of 50 cents annually.

Key factors

SunShare has worked with Sunetric on several projects and is involved with this deal as an “engineering, procurement and construction contractor,” Amster-Olszewski said. As an EPC contractor, Sunetric is responsible for things such as hiring subcontractors, designing solar systems and handling the delivery and installation of panels.

“They are just our construction partner,” Amster-Olszewski said. “Their role in the project ends with construction.”

The 26-year-old Colorado College graduate believes there are several factors behind Utilities’ intent to award the partnership: He said SunShare offers a wealth of experience, competitive prices and community involvement that sets the firm apart from the competition.

Company growth

“The idea started in Colorado Springs in 2011 and 100 percent of our contracts were here,” he said.

“Now we’re looking at 10 percent of our business [in Colorado Springs]. So we’re really growing and the idea is really expanding.”

Amster-Olszewski said the solar company has also kickstarted a low-income job training program in which SunShare partners with job training companies to teach skill-seekers how to install and maintain solar panels/arrays. He said that program was borne out of the company’s community solar garden projects in Denver.

“We really engage the community — with 400 entities subscribing and around 15,000 people at schools participating — all of our events are family-friendly,” he said. “We’re a local company.”

One Response to Utilities reveals intent for solar garden contract

  1. Bully and kudos to CSU for awarding this contract to a local company. Colorado Springs needs to be farming funds back into this community just like this. And it is about time.

    Steven Shepard
    October 21, 2013 at 7:07 pm