The Process of Solar Development from Start to Finish

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The Process of Solar Development from Start to Finish

The Process of Solar Development from Start to Finish

Rob Rowbottom, a dairy farmer in Norridgewock, Maine saw the tangible benefits of developing his land for solar energy as he neared retirement. “The overhead of living here is just too much to retire comfortably,” he says, but he didn’t want to sell his land and live anywhere else, which he would’ve had to do when he retired. Developing his land for solar electricity with Dynamic Energy gave him the opportunity to earn money, retire, and eventually leave his land to his three grown children.

Many solar development companies are doing the work to help you capitalize on your land. However, the truth is, not all are up front about the process that’s involved in solar development projects. Dynamic Energy prides itself on transparency and openness with landowners and makes sure you, as a landowner, have the best possible chance of getting to a point of completion where you’ll be able to have that sustainable income.

 Even though some large companies might promise an immediate return once a lease or option contract is signed, that’s simply not realistic. It can take at least two years (sometimes as long as five or more depending on project size) to fully develop the land for solar. But the good news is that we at Dynamic Energy do the hard work to make sure that you’ll begin to get something out of the process from start to finish.

Here’s a breakdown of what that process looks like:

01. Dynamic Energy Contacts the Landowner

In all of our work with landowners, we always conduct pre-assessments of your land, so we enter into each contract with high confidence that your land will be ideal for solar development. This isn’t the case for a lot of larger companies that lease large swaths of land prior to doing assessments where only a fraction of those contracts move forward even to the next step. Rowbottom has a neighbor who experienced just this, where his three-year lease with another company is about to expire, and no movement has been made. Rowbottom believes strongly that he made the right decision to work with Dynamic Energy because of the honest, open, and transparent communications he had with Chief Development Officer, John Motta, throughout the entire process.

While we can’t promise every contract will move smoothly through all of the permitting and certification processes, we only enter agreements where we have a high confidence that it will be feasible. And best of all, Dynamic Energy does the hard work to get over the finish line.

02. Contract between Dynamic Energy and Landowner

Once a contract agreement is signed and Dynamic Energy leases the land, landowners will immediately start receiving nominal development period payments for the right to develop the land. At this point, Dynamic Energy assumes responsibility and risk related to developing the land. Regardless of what happens with permits, connecting to the power grid, or how long the process to construction of the project may take, the cost and risk is taken on by Dynamic Energy throughout the multi-year process.

03. Utility Application

The first order of business is to make sure that the solar development can be connected to the regional power grid and the grid can handle the capacity of solar electricity output. To determine this, the utility conducts a series of studies that can often take over a year. It is also critical for the developer to move as quickly as possible into this process because studies are typically run in sequential order, reducing a project’s chances of success and economically viable connect to the grid the longer they wait and allow opportunity for other projects to get in line.

04. Local and State Environmental Reviews

As the utility process progresses, the next step is to go through the development zoning and land review processes at both the local and state levels. The analyses conducted depend on the location but can involve general site analyses, wetland surveys, and boundary surveys among others. This process, especially if multiple analyses need to be conducted, can also take over a year.

Throughout all of this process, Rob Rowbottom saw the progress. Even though construction wouldn’t start for several more months, John Motta from Dynamic kept in regular communication on the forward momentum. Rowbottom was also reassured by his local attorney that they had covered all their bases to make sure his own risk was limited.

05. Contract Production for Energy Sales

Once we’ve jumped over all the utility, permitting and zoning hurdles, we’re ready to look for an energy buyer which, in industry-speak, is called an “offtaker.” These offtakers can be grocery or big box chains, commercial real estate developers, large groups of residential homeowners (often referred to as “community solar”) or the utility itself that purchases solar electricity for their businesses. For example, for our project on the Rowbottom property, we partnered with Albertsons Companies, Inc. for one of the largest solar installations in Maine. This process happens in tandem with all of the previous steps and usually wraps up by the time the local and environmental reviews are complete.

06. Construction Begins

Finally, after all of those processes are wrapped up, we’re able to begin construction on the project. Throughout the design, Dynamic Energy works closely with landowners to make sure that they’re not only getting the best bang for their buck for the acreage, but that they’re also able to continue to use the land as they desire. For example, in the cases where we’ve contracted with livestock farmers, we’ve worked with them to provide the optionality for the livestock to continue to roam freely and safely on their land. Construction usually takes several months from start to finish depending on the size and scope of the project.

07. Long-Term Solar Income

After that 2-5 year process, you’re now ready to sit back and enjoy the sustainable long-term income that solar development offers. And you can feel comfortable that long-term income from renewables is particularly safe because they are financed and built with secured long-term offtake contracts called  (power purchase agreements). This is inherently different from and less risky than leasing the land to a tenant or many other forms of development. Even though the process seems long, the landowner’s involvement is minimal. Dynamic Energy takes on the risk and the costs to carry out each phase of the process to make sure you’ll eventually have that sustainable income while also helping to save the planet.

For Rob Rowbottom, whose property is currently in the construction phase, he sees the light at the end of the tunnel. He takes heart that not only can he retire comfortably, but the project will offset 6,400 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. It’s a win-win that, with time, perseverance, and people like John Motta and the team at Dynamic in your corner, can be one of the best ways to continuously benefit from one of your greatest assets, your land.


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