PV Solar Project Development Overview

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The project development process for PV solar projects is intricate and layered. The fundamentals of the project development process, in chronological order, include:

  1. Site Selection

  2. Financial Analysis

  3. Initial Engineering

  4. Site Control

  5. Interconnection Process

  6. Project Financing

  7. Permitting

  8. PPA Contract Negotiation

  9. EPC Selection Process

  10. Technology Selection and Full System Engineering

  11. Construction Process

  12. System Acceptance and System Startup

  13. Sustained Operational Strategies

  14. Project Development Sequencing

Detailed descriptions of each are provided below:



Goal: Identify a short list of suitable sites for the project location and select the one that is most suitable to the project purposes.

During this initial phase, developers will identify a range of locations for a prospective site and evaluate each site to determine the most suitable one for the proposed project. The development team will identify potential factors that may require remediation at a later date. Following are the types of considerations evaluated during this process:

  • Proposed project purposes

  • Ecological considerations

  • Infrastructure considerations

  • Potential pollution (visual, noise, odor)

The development team will finalize a location after evaluating the above site considerations and begin securing the site (step 4) and performing financial analyses for the project (step 2).


Step 2: Financial Analysis

Goal: Determine most advantageous and strategically sound option for achieving funding for the prospective solar project.

During this phase, a financial model developed for the project on the site selected in step 1. The model will propose various financial and technical scenarios for the project and highlight the pros/cons of each option in terms of ROI, risk assessment, exit strategies, cycle time to complete/achieve financing and overall worthiness. At a minimum the model will include an initial budget format for the overall project and define budget targets where applicable.


Step 3: Initial Engineering

Goal: Stamped engineering drawing set that reflects first cut system design for the solar project.

In order to secure site control, the project development team will execute a land agreement—typically a lease contract—with the landowner. The stipulations of this agreement are specific to operating a renewable power facility on the land during the lease period. This phase is typically conducted concurrently with steps 2 and 3.


Step 4: Site Control

Goal: To secure land for the solar project for the duration of the project life (typically 25-30 years).

In order to secure site control, the project development team will execute a land agreement—typically a lease contract—with the landowner. The stipulations of this agreement are specific to operating a renewable power facility on the land during the lease period. This phase is typically conducted concurrently with steps 2 and 3.


“Solvida is a leading voice for innovation in project design and project development.

They have shown a strong and consistent commitment to using their technical expertise and extensive industry connections to support the development and design of outstanding PV projects around the country.”

—Jill Daniel, Estuary Capital Partners


Step 5: Interconnection Process

Goal: Rapidly clarify the most viable system size that makes financial and practical sense from an interconnection perspective and receive interconnection agreement from the utility.

During this phase, the development team will manage the creation of a set of initial engineering drawings that will be used for several purposes. A few of these purposes—related to the development timeline—include:

  • Submittal to the utility for the initial system interconnection request

  • Submittal to county and local jurisdictions for permitting needs, and for

  • Initial EPC bidding purposes

System design will reflect strategy decisions in regards to system size, layout and technology.


Step 6: Project Financing

Goal: Receive project financing that meets/exceeds the developer’s strategic targets for the life of the project.

Once the project financing strategy is determined, the project development team will perform all required due diligence to submit to the financing entity. The project development team will meet with advisors and financing team members and identify obstacles and concerns that once mitigated, will enable an optimal financing scenario. The project development team will represent the project in good faith with the goal of developing a trusting and transparent relationship with the project financing entity.


Step 7: Permitting

Goal: Achieve all state and local permits required to build and operate the solar farm.

This phase includes securing land use, environmental, development and building permits required in order to operate a ground mounted solar farm. During the permit process, the designated engineering team will create detailed design drawings and performing studies to supply to permit offices for review and approval. The project development team also works with local authorities and the project engineering team to ensure all required permits are approved. Once all permits are approved, project construction can commence. As different permits are required for the various phases of developing and building a ground mount PV solar project, the permitting phase spans the early development phase through to construction.


Step 8: PPA Contract Negotiation

Goal: Receive a favorable PPA contract that meets or exceeds the projections outlined in the approved financial model.

The project ownership team will respond to an RFP from the utility or other approved off-taker for a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). The proposed PPA project off-taker, who will buy the power and pay the project owner, will structure an agreement for a period of time ranging from 5-25 years. The project development team will examine all aspects of the proposed PPA contract and ensure it meets the project’s strategic goals in terms of value, length of contract and stipulations.


Step 9: EPC Selection Process

Goal: Contractual relationship with an EPC contractor that will deliver the solar farm installation to performance, schedule and cost expectations.

The project development team will create bid scopes of work and schedules for potential EPC contractors. Scopes will reflect general requirements that will be later detailed in the project engineering package (step 11) as well as any additional elements decided by the project team in regards to cost, crew size, expected schedule, insurance, bonding and performance/workmanship warranty.

The project development team will also conduct a bidder’s site walk and meeting, receive EPC bid proposals and compile results and recommendations into a presentation to the project owner for their review and confirmation.


Step 10: Technology Selection and Full System Engineering

Goals: Maximize value of component selection considering performance, warranty, workmanship and compatibility with system. Develop a complete project engineering package that can be utilized for permitting, EPC and construction processes

With approved financing in place, the project development team will leverage industry relationships to maximize value in the component and technology selection process. The project development team will provide the project owner with an actionable plan to review vendor quotes from no less than three (3) vendors for each primary component: PV Modules, mounting system and inverters.

The project development team will work with selected vendors to negotiate best pricing and value for the project and will work with subcontracted engineering firm to value engineer system components and ensure that long-term maintenance and performance are well insured from the selected vendors and product mix.

The project development team will also highlight the essential design elements and their optimization to the project owner and ensure that any of the owner’s concerns regarding site safety, security, long-term ownership, maintenance, access and performance are implemented into the system design.


Step 11: Construction Process

Goal: Complete project constructions on time, under budget and to specifications detailed in system design, permit requirements and general best practices.

The project development team will conduct a construction kick-off meeting prior to work taking place onsite. Typically, the project development team will provide intermittent visits to the construction site to ensure project is being installed to specifications detailed in the project engineering design package. The EPC contractor will be responsible for providing regular progress reports to the project development team and the system owner that highlight work progress, any issues or delays as well as expected task completion based on project schedule. The project development team will manage the EPC contractor’s efforts and ensure their work meets/exceeds the project owner’s expectations.


Step 12: System Acceptance and System Startup

Goal: Completed utility and permit signoffs that enable timely system startup once construction is complete and system startup is approved.

The project development team will schedule, attend and manage all permit and the utility signoffs once construction is substantially complete. The project development team will develop a system startup plan and manage the startup process of the solar farm including EPC testing inputs, startup procedures that match manufacturer specifications for components such as inverters, and ensure that the right, technically trained personnel are utilized to guarantee a well documented and aligned system startup.


Step 13: Sustained Operational Strategies

Goal: A well-designed maintenance plan that maximizes system performance over time.

The project development team will compile a system operations and maintenance (O&M) manual for the project. Elements will include preventative maintenance routines, component O&M guidelines and contact information for all vendor O&M departments. The project development team will prepare an O&M budget that reflects tasks and exercises that will help maintain maximum system performance over time.