Inside the military's multibillion-dollar push for renewables

Those qualified to be renewable energy contractors for the Army have demonstrated the ability to finance, design, build, operate, own and maintain their own energy facilities, Hammack said.

“If your company qualifies under this opportunity, you can go after up to $7 billion in contracts –- we call it a hunting license,” said McDonald.

Throughout the last year –- as a service to help educate and prepare companies for this contract opportunity –- McDonald and colleagues have acted as advisors-for-hire with several renewable energy companies, developers and investors interested in getting their “hunting licenses.”

A significant number of developers, small businesses and defense contractors have been preparing for this announcement for some time, McDonald said.

She estimates that while Army Energy Initiative Task Force officials have met with about 150 entities, only 50 will qualify as prime contractors for hunting licenses. The Army Corps of Engineers will evaluate all applicants.

According to McDonald, those best positioned to qualify are experienced renewable energy project developers and operators -- not those who are selling technology in the developing stage. Most of the opportunities will be for purchase power agreements for solar, she added.

“Unless you are a very large and reputable developer that has just recently begun to learn about this opportunity, you probably want to join other teams instead of submitting a proposal to be a prime contractor,” she said.

But small businesses shouldn't fear being edged out of competition by their larger counterparts. Projects that are slated to produce less than four megawatts of energy will be reserved for small businesses first. Those that fall in the 4-12 MW capacity range may be reserved for small businesses as well, depending on the project size, complexity and level of financing required. Projects over 12 MW in capacity are open for unrestricted competition.

And there are still opportunities available for investors who can bring capital to the table as well as finance commercial projects.

“That’s where we’re seeing the most gaps,” McDonald said.

The Army will likely announce the firms that are qualified for its $7 billion in contracts during the first quarter of 2013, she predicted.

Three to six months after determining which companies are qualified, the Army will issue its first task orders, Hammack said. Task orders detail contracts available for bidding, including the energy capacity of the project and the type of technology to be used.

“At least 100 megawatts in task orders will be issued a year,” Hammack said.

Hammack said the task orders are currently being determined by the Army Energy Initiative Task Force through environmental analyses of more than 180 military installations. After evaluating the natural resources available at each site, the task force will match it with the technology best suited for the site and calculate the amount of energy that can be generated onsite.

Companies whose technology is not ready to scale at a commercial level need not despair. There are a number of demonstration opportunities with the military services and with the Office of the Secretary of Defense that will become available next year, McDonald said.

Interested in applying?

View the Army’s MATOC (Multiple Award Task Order Contract) request for proposals here. Proposals are due Oct. 5, 2012. A video recording of the pre-proposal conference being held today in Huntsville, Ala. will be available on the Federal Business Opportunities website and the Army Energy Initiative Task Force website after the event along with speaker presentations. (Conference registration has filled to capacity).