Beartooth Electric Cooperative for Shares du Soleil Community Solar Project
Bozeman Public Schools for 50 kW Solar Array on School Support Building
City of Red Lodge for Solarize Red Lodge Project
This Request for Applications FY19 (RFA) seeks responses from Montana communities interested in organizing and developing community-scale solar projects. The Montana Energy Office (MEO) will review and rank the applications to select those most appropriate for funding under the criteria set out in this RFA. MEO anticipates that approximately $110,000 in Montana Solar Community Project (MSCP) project funds will be available for distribution between September 2018 and September 2019 to fund potential projects. The recommended range for MSCP funding requests is $5,000-$15,000 per project. A 40% cost share is encouraged and will be factored into project selection but is not required. MEO recognizes that project scale will vary depending upon a variety of factors such as community size, solar project capacity, project engineering requirements, or the amount of organizing or marketing needed within the community. All projects that meet the requirements will be considered, no matter the scale of the project.
To submit questions or get additional information, please contact Vicki Woodrow of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, VWoodrow@mt.gov, 406-444-3101.
Q: Can project sponsor staff salaries be included as either a cost share or a project expense in the application?
A: Yes, the cost of the estimated staff hours allocated to the administration and execution of the proposed project can be used as either a voluntary project cost share or as a project expense that MCSP funding can be used to reimburse.
Q: What rate should be used to calculate volunteer value within my voluntary match?
A: The volunteer value rate to be used by the project sponsor in its application is up to the project sponsor’s discretion, but should be in accordance with the duties and work to be completed by the volunteer. To the greatest extent possible, rates should be set using the pay for comparable positions at the project member organization, alternatively, applicants can use online resources to estimate the value of volunteer services. In your application to MSCP, please provide notation on how the rates were set. So long as MSCP considers the volunteer value rates appropriate and reasonable, they will be factored into the project sponsor’s cost share as proposed. MSCP reserves the right to modify the value accorded to volunteer services if MSCP considers the proposed value rates unreasonable.
Q: Does a city or town project sponsor need official approval from the local government’s governing body (i.e., town council) in order to be eligible for a funding award from MSCP?
A: No, an official approval from the local government’s governing body is not necessary to be considered an eligible project sponsor. However, demonstrated government/community support, such as approval of local government funds or staff time to pursue a community-scale solar project, will be considered by the project application evaluation team when considering whether the proposed project has the resources and community support to be successful.
Q: Is solar lighting an allowable project for this funding?
A: In most all cases, yes. So long as a project is utilizing photovoltaic technology to generate electricity, whether it’s directly used, stored, or exported back onto the grid, the planning costs associated with the project are eligible to receive a solar grant so long as the project is not intended to develop solar electricity for direct sale to an electricity provider.
Q: Is the funding only designed for a "solar array" that 'goes to the grid?'
A: There is no requirement that the solar project be grid-tied. Off-grid applications are eligible to receive a solar grant.
Q: Buying the solar equipment is an ineligible expense. Is purchasing the solar equipment eligible to be part of the match?
A: No, solar equipment costs are not eligible to be used as a project cost share or “match”. However, while a demonstrated cost share or match is preferable, even if it is a small percentage of the projects overall cost, it is not mandatory. In addition, cost matches can be provided financially but they can also be provided through contributions of staff time, both paid and unpaid (see answers to questions above).
Q: Can a registered homeowners association (HOA) that has legal status, but not non-profit (e.g. 501(c)3) status, be considered eligible to receive a solar grant or would the HOA need to establish formal non-profit corporate status in order to be eligible for a solar grant?
A: The primary applicant for a solar grant must be either a government entity (local, state, or tribal), an electricity provider, or a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. If Montanans, businesses, or other organizations interested in pursuing a solar project but are ineligible for MSCP solar grant funding themselves, they might consider partnering with an eligible entity like a local non-profit or electricity provider that can be the project lead.
Q: Would a locally-distributed but community-managed system for solar power production, different to a single-site centralized solar generation system, be eligible for a solar grant?
A: Yes, such a project would be eligible for a solar grant. However, distributed energy generating systems utilizing multiple solar arrays, where electricity generation is being aggregated and potentially shared between participants has the potential to run into legal and administrative barriers if the participants are still grid-tied and receiving electricity from an investor-owned or cooperative electricity provider. As part of the project application, applicants need to demonstrate that their project is feasible, which includes addressing any legal or administrative barriers that might exist.
Q: Can additional issues, like sustainable transportation or energy efficiency improvements, be including in the planning costs the applicant is seeking a solar grant to cover?
A: The solar grant can only be used towards the planning costs associated with the development of a solar photovoltaic system or systems. But applicants can propose projects with far broader scopes that might include things like energy efficiency and vehicle electrification. Any additional project efforts would be taken into consideration when evaluating things like the project’s innovativeness and additional benefits to the community.
Q: Can a project include an inclusive planning process involving local public entities (library, city, county), private entities (parking lot owners, design firms, solar installation firms, etc.), and university employees with energy and transportation expertise? Are there any limits on how public employees can participate in the planning process?
A: There is a prohibition from communicating with a state employee that is involved in the development or review of this grant program, other than Vicki Woodrow. The intent of this prohibition is to avoid advantaging any one potential applicant by providing them with information about the request for applications and how applications might be evaluated that isn’t available to all potential applicants. Public agencies can be applicants themselves and there is no prohibition of working with state employees, whether they are university staff or otherwise, outside of the application development and review process. State employees not affiliated with the Montana Department of Environment Quality can be consulted at any time about participating in a potential project.
Third Round Application Period Opens: 12/3/2018 8:00 AM MST
Application Questions Deadline: 1/25/2019 3:00 PM MST
Application Submission Deadline: 2/8/2019 2:00 PM MST
Round Three Funding Selections will be determined on or before 3/1/2019
On June 28th 2018, Garrett Martin from the Montana Solar Community Project provided an overview of MSCP’s funding opportunity, how to apply, and how projects would be funded for selection. Watch the recording below to learn more about how you and your Montana community can apply for funding.