As part of the Obama administration's SunShot Initiative to make solar energy cost-competitive with fossil fuels within the decade, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu has announced the availability of more than $27 million in new funding.
According to the DOE, this funding is designed to reduce the non-hardware costs of solar energy projects – a critical element in bringing down the overall costs of installed solar energy systems.
The funding will support a $12.5 million challenge to encourage cities and counties to compete to streamline and digitize permitting processes, as well as $15 million that will be made available to advance innovations in information technology systems, local zoning and building codes and regulations, and more.
Both funding opportunities focus on reducing non-hardware balance-of-system (BOS) costs for solar, which generally refer to the costs of installing solar systems not associated with the solar panels, mounting hardware, electronics, etc. These soft costs, including the capital required to pay for siting, permitting and installation, as well as the cost of connecting the systems to the grid, can represent up to 40% of the total cost of the solar energy system, the DOE says.
The Rooftop Solar Challenge incentivizes local governments to develop innovative solutions in four key areas: standardizing permitting processes, updating planning and zoning codes, improving interconnection and net metering standards, and increasing access to financing.
The $15 million BOS costs funding opportunity will create tools that local governments can use to streamline and expedite the process of installing solar energy. The DOE will fund one or more recipients under each of the following topic areas: codes, standards and processes; software design tools and databases; and regulatory and utility solutions.