Frequently Asked Questions - Affordable Solar Predevelopment and Technical Assistance

If you have any questions about applying for this program, please contact us at affordablesolar@nyserda.ny.gov.

 

Eligibility

As an individual homeowner, am I eligible for this program?

No, the Predevelopment and Technical Assistance funding is only available for projects on multifamily housing over 5 units, or for community solar projects serving LMI households and affordable housing providers. If you are a homeowner wanting to install solar to serve your own electric account and you qualify as low-to-moderate income, learn more about the Affordable Solar added incentive.

 

Can projects participating in this program also qualify for the Affordable Solar Residential Incentive?

No, the Affordable Solar Residential Incentive is only available for homeowners installing solar to serve their own household electric meters.

 

What income level qualifies as low-to-moderate income (LMI) for this program, and how should this be documented?

Low-to-moderate income (LMI) household is defined as a household with gross income at 80% or less of the median county income (80% AMI). See income guidelines by county at https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/Assisted-Home-Performance-with-ENERGY-STAR/Income-Guidelines.

When applicable, the income qualification process to be used in a proposed project should be described in the application. Acceptable documentation includes participation or eligibility of individual households or a targeted pool of households in other utility, housing, or other public assistance programs serving households at 80% AMI or below, including programs limited to serving households at lower income levels (for example, 60% AMI or 100% Federal Poverty Level).

Proposals may include use of the Affordable Solar Residential Incentive eligibility application and process to qualify and document LMI household participation (for example, LMI households recruited at-large to enroll in a community solar project).

 

Can eligible projects be located in areas of the state where utility customers do not pay the CEF surcharge (i.e., are not served by one of the main Investor Owned Utilities)?

Yes. Projects serving residents or properties in non-IOU areas (including NYPA customers) are eligible to access Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative funding allocated at a total of $800,000 for this program.  

 

Would predevelopment on solar projects for multifamily buildings which have both affordable/LMI and market-rate units be eligible for this program?

Proposals involving housing that are not 100% affordable units are eligible to apply.  Applicants should keep in mind that one of the criteria proposals are evaluated on is the amount of potential benefit to LMI households or affordable housing providers relative to the amount of funding requested.  

All proposals must provide details on the number of affordable properties, units or LMI households that will potentially benefit or be impacted by the project.

 

Are Mitchell Lama properties and properties with Section 8 tenants eligible for this program?

Yes. Multifamily affordable housing properties regulated by HUD, NYS DHCR, or NYC HPD and have resident households at or below 80% AMI are eligible properties for participation in this program. All proposals involving multifamily affordable housing should indicate the number of LMI households to be impacted directly or indirectly through the project. For a complete list of properties eligible as multifamily affordable housing, see the program rules.   

Applicants should provide details on or documentation of the affordability terms for properties or tenant units to be served through this program.

 

Are projects developing solar to offset only common area electric load for multifamily affordable housing eligible for this program?

A. Yes, projects serving common area electric load of master-metered or direct-metered multifamily affordable properties are eligible to apply.   For such projects, applicants should provide details on the potential economic benefit(s) to the affordable housing provider(s), any planned indirect benefits to LMI residents, and a description or documentation of the affordability terms of the housing.

 

How can this funding be used to serve LMI households in rural areas that do not live in multifamily buildings?

This funding may be used to serve LMI households in single family homes living in rural areas (or any other area) as members of a community solar installation.

 

Is there a minimum percentage of LMI household subscribers required to fund predevelopment on a community solar project through this program?  

There is no minimum LMI household participation requirement, however applicants should keep in mind that one of the criteria proposals are evaluated on is the amount of potential benefit to LMI households or affordable housing providers relative to the amount of funding requested.  

 

Are there guidelines a proposal must meet to be eligible or approved?

See the eligibility requirements and application evaluation criteria detailed in the program rules. 

 

What are some examples of eligible activity related to project financing?

Examples of eligible project-level financing activities include sourcing, structuring and closing on financing arrangements which may include debt, tax equity, cash equity and credit enhancements for the solar project. Developing and implementing financial products for LMI members of a shared solar installation is an example of eligible consumer financing activity.   

 

Can this funding be used to develop a LMI solar model or product without being connected to a specific solar installation or intended customers

No.  All proposals must identify proposed or existing solar installation(s) and intended LMI household or affordable housing participants in the project.  Proposals leading to scalable or replicable new models or strategies are also encouraged, but must identify solar installations being developed and/or LMI customers being served as a a indemonstration project, which will be subject to the program’s evaluation criteria.

 

Can multiple sites or customers be included in one proposal?

Proposals may involve customers, properties and/or solar installations in multiple locations (a portfolio of affordable housing properties for example), so long as all distinct project sites are clearly detailed in the application. 

 

How can municipalities participate in this program?

Municipalities can be applicants, project team members, project partners, or the customers of proposed projects in this program.  

 

What types of solar site assessment and selection activities are eligible for funding by this program?

Preliminary assessment activities are eligible, including:  remote PV potential analysis, collection and review of property data such as building roof plans and age, utility billing, metering configurations, and potential issues with interconnection.  

 

For a proposal involving a development of a community solar installation, must the interconnection approval process have already been initiated?

Although direct work to achieve interconnection approval is not eligible for funding, for community solar projects requiring a CESIR study, documented receipt and review of the completed study may be required by NYSERDA as an outcome of the project’s Milestone 1.

 

Can the Predevelopment funds be used for projects involving measures or technology other than solar PV -- such as energy efficiency, solar thermal , battery storage or renewable heating and cooling?

This program funding may not be used for direct installation and equipment costs, regardless of the type of technology or measures.  Proposals may include some coordination of other technology or measures delivered along with the solar project, although the proposed predevelopment activities and the budget requested must reflect a primary focus on providing solar PV benefits in order to be considered for review.

 

Is workforce development an eligible use of this program funding?

A. Workforce development activities are not an eligible use of program funding. However, proposed projects may include the coordination of workforce development activities along with a solar project. Proposed predevelopment activities and the budget requested must reflect a focus on providing benefits from PV generation to be considered for review.

 

If a potential applicant has a concept or model they would like to use on multiple projects, should the applicant include all of the projects in one funding application, or should separate applications be submitted for each project?

An applicant may pursue either of these options, keeping in mind that each application is subject to the program evaluation criteria, including the feasibility of completing predevelopment on the projects presented in the application, as well as whether the proposed budget is reasonable and justifiable.

If an applicant is submitting multiple proposals, those applications should avoid unnecessary redundancy in activities or budget line items.  NYSERDA may consider multiple proposals by one applicant as a group and program policy factors as described in the solicitation guidelines document may be applied.

 

Can a community solar installation be located outside the New York City area but serve LMI customers residing in New York City?

No. The regulations for community shared solar in NYS require that all the members be located in the same utility territory and load zone in which the solar installation is physically located. For example, Westchester County and New York City are in different load zones, so a community solar installation located in Westchester County cannot serve LMI customers in New York City.

 

Is this funding available for both existing multifamily and new construction multifamily projects?

Yes, projects involving existing and new construction multifamily affordable housing are both eligible. For new-construction affordable housing projects, the proposal should provide details and documentation on the housing’s planned affordability term, as well as the status and timeline of the financing, other predevelopment and construction of the housing.    

 

What would be considered ‘completion’ of predevelopment work focused on outreach and enrollment of customers?

For proposals focused on LMI customer (or affordable housing) outreach and enrollment, completion may include having signed contracts and other information from customers needed to begin the implementation and operation of the solar project. For example, for community solar enrollment of LMI customers, the initial Community DG Member Allocation form detailing the LMI member information for NY-Sun and the utility may be provided.  For affordable housing providers, signed contracts and agreements with solar developers and/or a community solar providers may document completion. 

 

Is developing customer enrollment and management software eligible for funding? 

Yes, however applicants proposing development of their own software platforms as a significant portion of the proposed activities and requested funding should include detailed information on why partnerships with existing software providers and customer management platforms are not being pursued. 

 

How long can a predevelopment project be funded?

The maximum project length funded through this program is one year.  Applications proposing program funding beyond one year will not be considered for review.

 

Can teams with approved projects partner or collaborate while funded by this program?

Knowledge sharing and collaboration between project teams during their predevelopment work periods is encouraged.  However, each team must fulfill the terms of its activities and milestones as outlined in its own  final Work Plan contracted with NYSERDA.

 

How much time does this program require projects to spend on knowledge-sharing across the state?

There are no specific guidelines, although we ask applicants to consider and propose how results from their projects can be shared through their final reports, case studies or other means to demonstrate successful  practices. NYSERDA staff will also be coordinating specific opportunities for knowledge sharing among both stakeholders and project teams around the state. 

Application Process

How is NYSERDA ensuring the confidentiality of any competitively sensitive or proprietary business information that may be included in a proposal?

Information submitted to NYSERDA in a proposal is subject to The NYS Freedom of Information Law. Exceptions are provided for information indicated as confidential or proprietary in the proposal. For full information, please refer to the section entitled “Proprietary Information” under the General Conditions of the program rules.

 

May additional documents or materials be included in the application submission?

Yes.  Applicants may submit additional materials to provide documentation of any eligibility criteria or current progress on a project.  During review, NYSERDA may request more documentation or materials from applicants, particularly projects with higher funding requests.

 

Should the Standard Agreement be signed and submitted with the application?

No, the Standard Agreement was provided in the application package for informational purposes only.  The signed agreement will be required for approved proposals at the time of executing a contract with NYSERDA.

 

How long will it take for a proposal, once submitted, to move from review to receipt of first funding?

NYSERDA will respond to submitted applications with initial feedback, a request for more information, or a decision on approval within 30 business days of application receipt.

After committee review, all proposals recommended for further consideration must have Final Work Plans approved by NYSERDA to enter the contracting.  The length of this process is dependent on the project – proposals with larger budgets and/or more complex project activities should anticipate additional time for reaching Final Work Plan approval.  First payment on contracts are made after contracting is executed and when the project team completes the first project milestone. 

 

Are contract start times flexible?

Contract start times for each approved application are based on when the Final Work Plan is approved by NYSERDA and the contract is executed by the applicant. Contracting will be delayed on approved projects if a specific factor critical to the start of the project -- for example, additional funding that was identified as required -- is waiting to be met.  

 

If the funding amount proposed in an application is contingent on the receipt of funds from other programs (other government or grant funding, for example) and those other funding sources are not realized,  can the proposer submit a second application for NYSERDA funding to cover the gap?

No.  In such a case, the applicant may be required to withdraw the application and may have the option to resubmit the proposal with an updated funding request.   Although an organization may submit multiple applications to this program for distinct projects, and organizations can participate as a project team member on multiple applications, an applicant may not submit two applications to fund the same project.   

Budget

What is the maximum funding amount that can be requested per proposal?

Applications may propose NYSERDA funding up to $200,000. Proposals for lower funding amounts on smaller projects or to complete very focused components of a project’s predevelopment are encouraged and expected -- for example, applications requesting  under $25,000, under $50,000, or under $100,000. All applications will be evaluated on whether the proposed funding level is appropriate for the activities and projected benefits to LMI households or affordable housing providers as described in the proposal .

Proposals seeking higher funding levels up to the maximum award amount should provide thorough backup documentation and justification for all budget line items, and anticipate requests for further details by NYSERDA.

 

What information should be included on the application budget form?  Is there a maximum percentage of the project’s total cost that can be requested for NYSERDA funding? How are project budgets evaluated? 

Include only costs associated with the predevelopment of the proposed project    Do not include costs other than predevelopment (for example: do not include costs for design, engineering, hardware and construction of proposed solar installation(s) ).   In the header of the budget template, indicate the amount of the total NYSERDA funding requested (from PON 3414), and the total cost of projected predevelopment.

Use the line items on the budget template to indicate the total costs by personnel, subcontractor and other categories for project predevelopment only.  Include the share of predevelopment costs that are covered in-kind, through a cost share, or from other funding sources.  Additional information can be included as an attachment to describe planned cost share or use of other additional funding sources for project predevelopment.  

If activities by subcontractors and consultants are proposed to be funded by NYSERDA, include any backup documentation available on the projected hours, rates, or other justification for those budget line items.

Hourly rates for personnel, subcontractors and consultants included in the budget are should be the same or less than the hourly rates charged to other government or commercial entities for similar work performed.

Larger funding requests (for example, applications requesting the maximum award of $200,000) are expected to provide very thorough descriptions and additional documentation on budget line items including details on activities to be performed by subcontractors and consultants.    

 

Predevelopment on most multifamily affordable housing solar and community solar projects involves the work of team members or consultants providing legal and financing expertise.  Is there a cap on the funding amounts per proposal for legal and financing activities?    

No. There are not explicit caps on any expense category, although proposed predevelopment budgets will be evaluated in detail by the review committee and NYSERDA. NYSERDA may request more information on the roles and assigned tasks for legal and finance team members.   

Work Plan

What should be included in the Work Plan?  

The Work Plan serves two purposes:  1) to provide details needed by the review committee to effectively evaluate the proposal   2) to become the Statement of Work for contracting with NYSERDA on approved proposals.   To accomplish these two purposes, the Work Plan should include complete and specific details in a bullet list format of all activity proposed to be funded by NYSERDA.  Applicants should view the Work Plan as a way to lay out a clear roadmap of the predevelopment project based on key progress markers, or milestones.  The Work Plan should expand beyond the other sections of the application to describe the specific actions or tasks needed to reach each milestone, the organizations or team members responsible for those tasks, and the outcomes that can be documented to NYSERDA at the completion of each milestone

Each milestone must include a proposed associated NYSERDA funding amount which can be based on the four-milestone structure provided as a template (instructions found on the application), or an alternate funding schedule developed by the applicant.   The maximum amount of funding that can be associated with Milestone 1 is 30% of the total requested from NYSERDA.

 

Should all applicants use the four-milestone structure in the Work Plan template?

All applicants should use, at minimum, the four-milestone structure of the template.  However, applicants are encouraged to customize the template and add more milestones as needed to match the expected phases of their project predevelopment.   

Proposals with larger funding requests approaching the maximum $200,000 are encouraged to adjust the template by adding milestones.  Both the appropriateness of milestone funding amounts and the feasibility of activities within each milestone will be considered during evaluation of the application.  NYSERDA may request that proposers add to or adjust the proposed milestones during the review process.

The Work Plan template can be edited to include more milestones using standard features in Microsoft Word.  Applicants can contact NYSERDA if assistance is needed editing the template.