How to Create a Clean Energy Project in Your Community, Part 1: From Inception to Installer
Creating your own solar project as a Raise Green Originator is a great way to join the fight against climate change, but it takes hard work and dedication. Put simply, an Originator is a project developer, or a team of concerned and committed citizens that come together to take real action on climate change by developing a clean energy project. This is for anyone who is tired of reading about climate action, and wants to actually take climate action. What follows below is a sneak peek into the steps included in a project’s journey from inception to our Originator Engine and ending with raising money on our investor marketplace to get it done. If you’re reading as a prospective Originator and at any point find yourself missing a piece of the puzzle laid out in either part 1 or 2 of the blog post, it's a good idea to take a few steps back before moving forward.
It all starts with asking yourself, why do you want to become an Originator? Do you want to set up a sustainable side-hustle, or receive hands-on experience in clean energy to set yourself up for a job elsewhere? Are you interested in creating your own business and growing it over time as a professional solar developer? Do you want to become a leader in your community by enabling investment in local clean energy? Or, are you motivated by helping a local organization, like a school, community center, or non-profit?
All of the above are legitimate reasons to initiate your Originator journey, but your varying motivations may affect the lifecycle your project takes on, as well as the timeline and role that Raise Green plays in your project. You may also want to think about whether you want to proceed as a solo Originator, as part of a larger organization, or a team of like-minded individuals before you kick off the creation process. Once you think about your motivation for creating a project and get an idea of your Originator team, it’s time to flesh out where your project will be implemented and what it is.
Most of Raise Green’s market is built around solar projects. Such that, if you’re developing a solar project, or you have an operating solar project that you’re looking to refinance, we have an immense catalogue of resources to help you create and finance your work. If you have a different idea don’t worry, we can still help you access capital to make your idea come to life, but some of the points below may be unrelated to your project.
One of the first things you do in the Originator Engine is name and create your project and holding company. You might already be working for a company that will run a project, like a non-profit, or you might be a solo Originator creating your company for the first time. Either way, we will need information about the project, like its name and description, as well as information about your company, including a description, address, and the state it will be incorporated in. If you want help with incorporating your company, we have templates and an enterprise partner that can help get it done affordably.
Regardless of your project type, you will need to know the site where it will be implemented. Once you have an idea of where you think you will put your project, you need to obtain approval from the site owner to place it there. This is what we call site control. In some cases, an Originator might already own the site (e.g. building, parcel of land) where they want to place their project, but in many cases, this process of obtaining site control involves close communication with the owner of the site to achieve express approval. Establishing a good, stable relationship with a site owner is recommended, as it is a key piece of managing the decades-long lifespan of your project.
Once you establish site control, you can get into the details of putting the pieces of your solar system together through sizing your system, finding an installer and offtaker, and calculating costs and earnings of your project. You can gauge the size of your system in terms of kW capacity. For example, community-scale solar projects normally fall between 50-500kW. With site control and a size estimate, you can take steps towards finding a solar installer on a free site like EnergySage, or reach out for a Raise Green recommended installer. Moreover, an installer is one of the first partners we recommend engaging since you’ll need licensed professionals to design, engineer, and build the system.
Installers will provide you with a bid for how much it costs to install your system, but the costs of your system extend beyond installation costs (more to be mentioned in part 2). In fact, the solar ‘soft costs’ as they’re called account for an average of about 62% of the cost of going solar. And that’s a main reason why Raise Green exists, to help reduce these costs and make it more affordable and accessible for communities to get clean energy, especially disadvantaged communities. Installers will also help you finalize the design of your system, a necessary step towards finding an offtaker that will purchase your electricity.
If you’ve made it this far, continue on to part two of the blog coming soon. In our next part, we’ll dive into finding an offtaker, projecting financial costs and earnings, finding partners, and finalizing your project story to sell securities on our marketplace.
As always, feel free to engage us in conversation and send any questions or comments you might have to firstname.lastname@example.org.