The International Renewable Energy Agency has just released an exciting tool for renewable energy entrepreneurs, urban planners, and researchers: Project Navigator. It should greatly increase the number of successful renewable power projects. The program should also decrease the number of confidence-busting failures, although these have become fewer and fewer as renewable industries have continued to mature. Known for a comprehensive approach to renewable energy worldwide, IRENA has now gathered the knowledge, tools, case studies, best practices, and other resources to create a nimble platform from which developers can launch, and others evaluate, renewable power projects.
Too often, a renewable energy proposal seems very promising yet runs into a major hitch and is never executed. A developer’s lack of expertise in providing strong project and technology data, financing instruments, and information necessary for investment analysis can preclude its implementation. A renewable energy technology proposal needs to present the project in such a way that funding institutions are readily convinced of its bankability.
IRENA’s new tool combines the specificity to renewables with a complete feasibility analysis, a cost calculator, and transparency and practicality as well.
Says IRENA’s Director-General Adnan Z. Amin:
“This new tool makes it easier for project developers to initiate, develop, fund, and complete renewable energy projects around the globe. It helps them overcome the barriers inherent in starting projects and, in doing so, facilitates the deployment of more renewable energy worldwide.”
Roland Roesch, IRENA’s Senior Programme Officer and lead official on the Project Navigator, adds:
“This is a perfect tool to help developers who have a strong idea for a renewable energy project, but limited knowledge of project finance. Finance is one of the major hurdles that must be cleared to create a successful project. The Navigator’s rich database of technical information can help developers overcome this hurdle.”
Project Navigator walks developers through renewable project creation from initial conception to end results. Unlike less explicit planning and cost estimation processes, the Navigator takes into account nine phases of implementation for renewables (see chart above), currently focusing on the first six: Identification, Screening, Assessment, Selection, Predevelopment, and Development. The process rarely proceeds in a linear fashion—a cyclic approach offers more flexibility—but this phased approach carefully roadmaps the basic calculations and forecasts necessary.
The first cycle of development contains the first four project phases: framework and environment, stakeholders, critical success factors, and project resources (internal [staff, labor] and external [government, state, nongovernment, private], including all the important variables: materials, design, quality, specifications, and other relevant items). Thorough work on these four development phases results in the best project ideas.
Second, planners refine the concept and produce more details. During this cycle, they work out how to overcome identified risks and clarify the project background. They can then search Project Navigator’s database for funding by renewable energy type and region and identify appropriate and available funds. This cycle results in a clear and focused understanding of technical and financial aspects of the project.
Each user must conceptualize and refine his or her individual project and proposal. However, Project Navigator provides a fully equipped workspace to fill out the concepts, presenting a remarkable range of tools, templates, and downloading services. Easy explanatory pop-up windows enable quick operation. Microsoft Office-compatible results can be stored, formatted, and/or downloaded for further processing to ensure high quality and completeness of a bankable proposal.
Project leaders can create and adjust a realistic budget from the third cycle forward. It reiterates and troubleshoots all six pre-execution phases. At the end of it, planners should have lined up everything needed for implementation: the financial model, the technical concept, and all the legal documents. They can then use the financial navigator part of the product to identify suitable funding opportunities (see chart). At the end of this process, project leaders will seek and incorporate informed financial guidance and either green-light the work or stop before committing extensive resources.
Summing up, the IRENA Project Navigator offers much more than the simple databases, cookie-cutter cost calculators, and project schedulers available in many real estate development programs and elsewhere. Its hallmarks include insights specific to the renewables markets, thorough strategic analysis, and accurate forecasting. Although I have not seen this program at work on a given proposal (planners can insert project details by going through the website), I found it attractive as well because it goes far enough to include detailed troubleshooting and a capacity for planning of alternatives.
The tool also highlights another important aspect of renewable energy development: the decommissioning phase. Needless to say, the nuclear power industry would be much less troubled if its developers had included this element in the planning stages.
Anyone can register and access the Project Navigator now at www.irena.org/navigator. Read more about the how it works here, and if you have feedback or questions, contact the IRENA Project Navigator team at firstname.lastname@example.org. The program promises more realistic, reliable, and swift development of renewables than even the dizzying rise achieved so far.