U.S. DOE Awards $12 Million To Cut Solar Soft Costs


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded eight teams a total of $12 million to develop streamlined and standardized solar permitting, zoning, metering and grid interconnection processes for communities across the country. The awards represent the second phase of the Rooftop Solar Challenge program, which is part of the DOE's SunShot Initiative.

According to the DOE, permitting, installation, design and maintenance now account for more than 60% of the total cost of installed rooftop photovoltaic systems in the U.S. These so-called ‘soft costs’ are often cited by installers as having a significant drag on the penetration of solar energy systems.

Across the nation, the DOE says, there are more than 18,000 local jurisdictions with their own PV permitting requirements, as well as more than 5,000 utilities that set rules for connecting to the power grid. The Rooftop Solar Challenge encourages city, county and state officials; regulatory entities; private industry; universities; local utilities; and other regional stakeholders to address processes required to install and finance residential and small commercial solar power systems.

During the program's first round, 22 regional teams worked to reduce the soft costs of solar. According to the DOE, these efforts helped cut permitting time by 40% and reduce fees by over 10%. Some of the eight teams of the second round are also addressing permitting and interconnection processes. Others are focusing on purchasing practices, online applications and regional planning.

In August, the East Bay Green Corridor in California fielded an independent initiative to streamline the permitting process for residential solar installations in the region's nine cities. The group, working with state officials and area cleantech businesses, also received funding from the SunShot Initiative.

A list of the eight new Rooftop Solar Challenge II teams and descriptions of their proposed projects is available here.

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