You are here

During phase 5 of the distributed energy project implementation process, the design, construction, and performance or operations and maintenance (O&M) period are complete. The specific process used will depend on the selected procurement option. Below is general information that applies to many procurements.

Step 1: Complete the Project Design

The project developer begins with a schematic design (typically 35% of the design) that includes the size and type of the major system components and the connections between components. Most of the review effort for appropriation projects, which is the procurement option where design review most often occurs, is focused on the schematic design. Subsequent design phases (e.g., 50%, 75%, 95%) only develop the systems identified in the schematic design. Therefore, major changes after this early phase of design are unlikely to be considered. The commissioning agent typically aids in the design review as well as develops protocols by which the system performance will be evaluated in step 3.

Design for maintainability, safety, and efficiency:

  • Include industry considerations raised in RFP process
  • Consider factors added during contract negotiations
  • Incorporate due diligence results
  • Include code considerations
  • Incorporate utility interconnection requirements and study results
  • Assemble an interdisciplinary team.
Find Resources
See tools and publications for planning and implementing distributed energy projects.

Step 2: Begin Construction

The project developer orders the equipment and begins construction or installation of the distributed energy system employing a team. The contract administrator enforces the terms of the contract. The project developer’s construction manager ensures that the various disciplines (e.g., roofers, plumbers, and electricians) are coordinated so that the different components work together as a system. Close coordination is also required with building occupants and management to minimize issues that could impact the facility's mission. Much of this is accomplished through frequent meetings between the construction manager and facility management and occupants.

Best practices during this step include:

  • Establish a single point of contact
  • Review milestone progress frequently
  • Maintain close contact with utility
  • Involve inspection officials early
  • Keep mission and occupants informed.

Step 3: Commission the Distributed Energy System

With construction complete, it is important to commission the distributed energy system to ensure it works to specification. During the design phase, the commissioning agent should have documented the intent of the design and created the protocol by which the system performance will be evaluated and any required instrumentation. After the system is installed, the commissioning agent assesses the degree to which the system fulfills the intent of the design. Almost all large systems have at least some deficiencies that need to be corrected.

Benefits of commissioning a distributed energy system include:

  • Ensures complete and accurate documents by updating documents to "as built" conditions
  • Verifies that the plant is structurally and electrically safe and safely initiates plant operation
  • Ensures the plant performs as expected
  • Reduces O&M costs
  • Verifies that the number and type of components (panels, inverters, etc.) comply with specifications
  • Tests components and the system
  • Prepares commissioning report.

Correct commissioning is required for a project warranty.

Step 4: Accept the Project

Following construction, the government must officially "accept" the completed project. The contracting officer’s technical representative submits to the contracting officer (CO) documentation that the project is complete and operational, and all requirements have been met. The CO then sends a signed letter to the contractor accepting the project, and stating that invoicing may commence if it is a performance contract. The CO documents acceptance and the starting date of the performance period. It is up to the agency technical staff to inform the CO decision if the project can be accepted.

Items to verify prior to acceptance include:

  • All specified equipment has been installed
  • The installed project has been inspected, tested, and commissioned, with associated reports reviewed by experts and approved.
  • Document government witnessing of tests and inspections
  • Any and all discrepancies noted in inspection reports or punch-lists have been corrected.
  • Training on O&M has been conducted for site staff; O&M manuals have been reviewed by experts and approved, including spare parts lists, and spare parts specified in the contract have been provided
  • As-built drawings have been reviewed by experts and approved
  • Utility interconnection agreement and incentives paperwork submitted and approved
  • Manufacturer warranty registered with manufacturer
  • Installed system has performed properly for 30 days.

Partial acceptance of a project may be warranted if the project includes multiple independent measures or if the project is implemented in phases. Partial acceptance would allow the contractor to invoice for the measures or phase that are complete and delivering energy to the facility even as other work continues.

Step 5: Perform Operations and Maintenance

This step covers the period of time that the distributed energy system is in operation. It is important to take care of the distributed energy system through regular O&M and to confirm that it is working according to specification and warranties through measurement and verification (M&V).

In some procurement options, a contractor performs O&M. However, even if a contractor is responsible for O&M, site staff should have some operational knowledge such as emergency shut-down of the system. Every system should include at least some operational indicators so that staff can easily see if the system is working properly. Many agencies select an M&V protocol that provides enough information to determine how well the system is working, and in many cases to allow occupants and visitors to interpret the performance of the project.

A system performance evaluation might use satellite data, models of incident solar radiation, resource estimates, and a near real-time performance evaluation. Inspections could be conducted through remote imaging, aerial inspection, or visual/infrared/electroluminescence.

Operation and maintenance may be required per the system warranty. Additional benefits include increased efficiency and energy delivery, decreased downtime, and extended system life.

Warranty management best practices include:

  • Follow instructions carefully to not void a warranty
  • Document data to prove that a module is underperforming
  • Plan for labor to remove, ship, and reinstall an underperforming module
  • Get a warranty for the manufacturer to "repair and replace" rather than "supplement"
  • Consider an "insurance-backed guarantee", in which warranty claims will still be processed in the event of a liquidation, receivership, or closure of a dealer.

Step 6: Decommission or Close Out the Project

When the performance contract ends, depending on the stipulations of the contract, the federal government may have the option to extend a performance contract, conduct a follow-on procurement, purchase the distributed energy system at fair market value (determined at time of sale), or abandon the distributed energy system in place. When the equipment is no longer functional, it must be disposed of. It can be replaced by a new distributed energy system or the space can be renovated for another application.

Phase 4 of the distributed energy project implementation process focuses on the procurement and contract award. See Phase 4: Procurement.

Phase 6 of the distributed energy project implementation process focuses on agency reporting. See Phase 6: Federal Reporting.

Key Resources

Identifies and prioritizes renewable energy projects at a single site or across a portfolio of sites in cities, states, or countries.
Compares the combination of capital costs, operations and maintenance, performance, and fuel costs
Examines the viability of three solar technologies in the U.S. with a high-level annualized economic calculation
Guide provides a framework for federal government, private developers, and financiers to coordinate on large-scale renewable energy projects.
Feature strategies for achieving net zero energy, water, and waste in federal buildings and campuses.
Details this project structure, which uses the multiyear ESPC authority to implement distributed energy projects.
Template provides example language for agencies assembling solicitations and contracts for privately-financed, on-site solar photovoltaic systems.
Guide for federal agencies in selecting and integrating renewable energy technologies within new construction or major renovation projects.