TerraPro Solutions

North American Clean Energy

November 2020 Issue

Managing the Unpredictable in Solar Project Finance

Author: Kimberlee Centera, CEO & President

Solar Farm Sunrise Emmitsburg Maryland
Kimberlee Centera CEO and President of TerraPro Solutions
Kimberlee Centera
CEO & President

You can mitigate risk by following these best practices:

I

n solar project development, there is a 100 percent certainty that things will change along the way. Changes can originate from a myriad of places across the development spectrum: The engineering design team may have found a newer, better technology than originally planned; A crossing agreement might need to be negotiated; An endangered species may be discovered, thus requiring a new placement of the equipment; The various teams (engineering, survey, or construction) may make decisions that can impact the entire project. While any of these may at first appear to be a small change, they often require painstaking curative work to meet the legal requirements for the title work, which is an essential piece of the financing puzzle.

The various surprises that are likely to occur can never be anticipated at the front end. If risks cannot be avoided, what can you do to ensure the success of your project?

BayWa r.e. Solar Projects LLC, Fern Solar, Kimberlee Centera
  1. Develop a strategic plan. Schedule your project phases from the completion date backwards. This identifies critical milestones so you are not blindsided by unexpected issues or delays. The plan will allow you to map the entire scope of the project, from inception through construction. Key points should include:
BaWay Fern Solar Project, TerraPro solutions
  1. Create a community strategy. A common first touch point is knocking on doors. Unfortunately, this often relies on ill-prepared advocates who cannot answer any tough questions that arise. Successful community solar marketers drive the conversation by crafting a positive narrative about the project. This begins with fact finding to identify issues and address them honestly. Developers should design a dedicated website that provides an overview of the project, offers relevant Q&A, and regularly updates stakeholders. Front-end community research includes:
BayWa Fern Solar Project, Kimberlee Centera
  1. Assess and mitigate investor risk. To make informed decisions, investors require an in-depth analysis of potential risks, as well as how they can be managed or alleviated at every stage. To survive the close scrutiny that lenders and investors require for financing, all aspects of the project must be aligned, such that the end result will be a fully functioning, revenue-generating, and legally permitted project returning revenue to the investors.

The most important aspect of risk mitigation is developing a communications plan that engages all stakeholders. Any changes to design, land use, or issues discovered during site inspection, surveys, title review, or community engagement, must be clearly documented and communicated to the project management team so that curative actions may be taken. Meticulously monitoring progress can avoid costly delays, and gives all stakeholders the assurance that challenges needn’t grow into a crisis. 

Picture of Kimberlee Centera

Kimberlee Centera

Kimberlee Centera is the CEO of TerraPro Solutions. She is a risk management expert for the development and financing of large-scale generator energy projects for public utilities and community development. She possesses the expertise to identify, manage and mitigate risk. Kimberlee has been a guest on numerous radio programs including National Public Radio's Marketplace. She frequently serves as a speaker and educator at wind and solar conferences.

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