Chicago seeking bids for solar, CNG P3s

The Chicago Infrastructure Trust reckons the build-out of CNG fuelling stations will help it advance the city’s 2015 Sustainability Plan.

After receiving separate, unsolicited proposals to develop a solar energy project and build new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fuelling stations, the Chicago Infrastructure Trust (CIT) is now seeking competing bids from the private sector on these initiatives.

CIT received an unsolicited proposal to engineer, procure, construct, finance, operate and maintain solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on project partner properties using a power purchase agreement model that would ensure organisational budget, balance sheet, and credit neutrality, according to the Trust's website. 

The project, the site goes on to say, would achieve one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2015 sustainability goals by providing the city with an additional 20 megawatts (MW) of additional renewable energy. 

“City of Chicago departments and sister agencies as well as other local municipal and not-for-profit institutions […] have a strong interest in supporting solar PV system installations on the rooftops or grounds of their properties because these systems reduce carbon emissions while creating jobs and providing a hedge against rising energy prices,” the website said.

The initial unsolicited proposal for a public-private partnership (PPP; P3) to develop CNG fuelling stations was received by the CIT in August last year. After the agency determined that the project would help the city meet several of its environmental sustainability goals, an open bidding proposal period was announced on Wednesday. 

According to a related release, the CNG program objective is to “create a compelling network of CNG stations that enable vehicle operators to fuel in the City of Chicago”.

“The Trust's responsibility will be to secure an aggregated CNG fuel demand commitment for the selected fueling partner(s) [and] will acquire city-owned vacant lots where appropriate and available to establish the foundation for an entire network of CNG infrastructure”.

The current proposal calls for the initial installation of six new CNG fuelling stations that are publically accessible and upgrade for one or more city-owned stations that would create “outside-the-fence” public access to the CNG fuel point, while providing priority service for public vehicles.

CIT said in its release that bidders for the CNG project should keep in mind that they are seeking a plan with 24/7 access that will perform well in cold weather and have built-in performance trackers to monitor effects of the cold. Additionally, the Trust is seeking bidders who have a willingness to meet or exceed exacting requirements for incorporation of minority, women and disabled veteran-owned businesses.

In January, CIT announced that it had finalised an agreement with the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), which solidifies a working relationship in which the NREL's Clean Cities Technical Assistance team, or Tiger Team, agreed to provide “pro bono consulting services” to the Trust for six months, according to a related release. 

“Specifically, the Tiger Team will provide the Trust with dedicated technical and analytical alternative-fuel expertise for its [CNG] initiative,” said the release.  

Interested bidders in both the solar PV and CNG projects will have until April 17 to sign up for a time to speak with CIT. CNG bidders will be scheduled for a time to speak with the CIT on April 23.  

If the CIT receives additional bids for the solar PV project, it will select what it feels are the best candidates from the pool of interested parties for each possible solar PV site.  

The Trust will host a CNG industry forum on April 28 at the Chicago Innovation Exchange (CIE) to discuss the CNG program. The discussion will include “various city representatives and industry experts,” according to the CIT website. The open bidding proposal period for the project will close on Friday May 29.