Phase 3: Contractor Selection, Solar Installation
Schedule Pre-proposal Site Visits
While not mandatory, it’s highly recommended that all bidders visit the site and meet your key project staff. This pre-bid site meeting typically includes a “meet-and greet” with your team, a tour of the areas where the main solar components will be installed, discussion of your RFP’s specifications including emphasis of key parameters and instructions on submitting proposals, as well as time for questions and answers – bidders can ask questions for clarification and you can ask them questions to determine if they might be a good fit for your project. Find examples of questions you might want to ask here in our user’s guide.
Ideally, all bidders should visit the site and meet key project personnel before bidding. A scheduled pre-proposal (or pre-bid) site meeting often is the most efficient way to accomplish this.
A pre-bid site visit typically includes introduction of key staff, then a tour of the facility areas where the main solar components will be installed. This often includes the proposed roof or ground area for the solar modules, the electrical meter and main electrical panel(s) and any wire conduits or visible wire “runs.” Set aside time after the tour to go through the RFP to help clarify the project details, any specific project constraints and instructions on submitting a proposal. This may include or end in a question-and-answer forum with the prospective bidders. If not already provided, a contractor may ask for copies of electricity bills or additional details about what the organization is looking for in a contractor. The pre-bid site visit is also a chance for you to ask questions of the contractors to determine if they might be a good fit for the project.
Questions you may want to ask could include:
- Is there anything in the RFP that needs clarification?
- Do you foresee any obstacles to the project so far?
- Do you have previous experience with similar project scopes?
- Have you worked with nonprofit organizations before?
- Who will be our project manager and point person after we sign a contract?
- Who is the licensed electrician for this permit and installation? Is that person a subcontractor?
- What subcontractors will you involve on our project?
- What is your standard monitoring system included in your bid?
Not all solar contractors will work with all financing mechanisms. For example, a contractor may focus on only purchases, and some may offer and/or specialize in solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPA). Some states do not allow PPAs. It will be important that the RFP describe any special requirements around financing that a contractor will need to be aware of or include in the proposal.