Keys to success in
sourcing federal government solar projects
Working to secure government contracts, whether federal, state, or
local, can be a challenge. The bidding process is often complex, and
the requirements can be extensive.
A company must have adequate infrastructure to meet the specifications
set forth by the government. That said, if you can meet these
challenges, the benefits can be well worth the effort for
manufacturers, distributors, and service providers since project
success can help establish vital brand recognition and reputation among
key customer bases.
Particularly in the solar space, the opportunity is vast for
distributors and service providers to bolster business as the
integration of alternative energy products is considered a high value,
high return investment, and executive mandates have allotted budgets to
support such initiatives. Based on the U.S. Government's current focus
on energy reduction, any product or service that can reduce the overall
kilowatt hours of energy consumed, or even better, make an agency more
independent from utility power, can provide heavy incentive for
While the products required for government solar projects may not
differ much from a typical customer's project, the same cannot be said
about the contract process. First and foremost, securing these
contracts can be extremely competitive and requires greater
documentation. To succeed, the project proposal must be as descriptive
as possible in regard to details of value.
Although a substantially larger commitment of resources (such as time
and planning) is necessary, the complex nature of the government
proposal process provides the opportunity to highlight your company's
specific value and benefit to not only the government but also to other
customers. Most often, the high level of detail in the proposal
provides enhanced opportunity to increase business beyond the initial
requirements of the contract as the government is typically more
interested in total overall value than initial capital investment.
Streamlined logistics are also an important aspect of the proposal
process. Government agencies prefer to minimize the number of contracts
necessary to support one project, thus suppliers with a broad range of
skills in addition to the provision of solar products and services have
a greater chance of securing these projects. Proven project management,
relevant experience, and the ability to safely and efficiently connect
the solar generation system to the building or the electrical grid are
critical skills that are rarely overlooked. A supplier also offering
energy efficiency services is appealing to ensure the solar power is
put to the most efficient and effective uses.
Additionally, if a project involves grant money, it is important for
the federal agencies and Congress to know the importance of the results
of the contracts and projects so the funds are both allocated in
budgets and supported on Capitol Hill.
Overall, the three most vital aspects of working effec-tively with
government partners include understanding their expectations and
deliverables based on the contract, providing past performance insight
that is applicable to the project and providing value beyond the
contract's stated requirements.
Aside from the bid process, government buying cycles are typically much
longer and it can take more than a year to complete an order. However,
contract vehicles are everything within the government market, and once
a contract is in place, much of the bid process is eliminated and
business becomes easier to conduct. It is important to keep in mind
that once a contract is secured, the level of reporting is greater with
public investments compared to private projects.
The outlook for government projects can be unclear based on factors
including budget direction, elections, and public policy, but what
cannot be debated is that the government will always be an important
market for the electrical industry. The business dynamics are often
much larger and complex, but it is important that unsuccessful bids do
not prevent you from future initiatives. If your business doesn't have
a contract, partner with one that does; it could be a chance for
positive exposure and experience, both true keys to future success.
Jim Dankowski is manager, marketing and business development,
government sales and solutions, Eaton Corporation (www.eaton.com).