As part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, Energy Secretary Steven Chu was joined by Lynn Jurich, the president and co-founder of the solar power company SunRun, and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman to announce $12 million in funding for the awardees of the Rooftop Solar Challenge. The Challenge supports 22 regional teams to spur solar power deployment by cutting red tape — streamlining and standardizing permitting, zoning, metering, and connection processes — and improving finance options to reduce barriers and lower costs for residential and small commercial rooftop solar systems. This project is part of the Department’s larger effort to make solar energy more accessible and affordable, increase domestic solar deployment, and position the U.S. as a leader in the rapidly-growing global solar market.
“Through this competition, the Energy Department is helping to unleash America’s solar potential by investing in projects that will make it faster, easier, and cheaper to finance and deploy solar power in communities across the country,” said Secretary Chu. “These awards will reduce the cost homeowners and businesses pay to install solar energy systems, while at the same time saving money and time for local governments faced with tight budgets.”
The DOE SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort to make solar cost-competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. Reducing the installed cost of solar energy systems by about 75 percent will drive widespread large-scale adoption of solar—fortifying U.S. leadership in the global clean energy race while spurring new industries and job creation across the nation.
Non-hardware, or “soft,” costs like permitting, installation, design and maintenance currently account for up to 40 percent of the total cost of installed rooftop PV systems in the U.S. Across the nation today, there are more than 18,000 local jurisdictions with their own PV permitting requirements, land use codes and zoning ordinances; more than 5,000 utilities that are implementing standards for connecting and selling energy back to the energy grid; and all 50 states are developing their own connection standards and processes for supplying and pricing energy sold back to the grid. According to a report released earlier this year by SunRun, local permitting and inspection processes alone add about $0.50 per watt, or $2,500 per residential installation nation-wide.
Using a “race to the top” model, the Rooftop Solar Challenge incentivizes the regional awardees to address the differing and expensive permitting, zoning, metering, and connection processes required to install and finance residential and small business solar systems. The 22 diverse teams bring together city, county, and state officials, regulatory entities, private industry, universities, local utilities and other regional stakeholders to clear a path for rapid expansion of solar energy and serve as models for other communities across the country.
The teams will implement step-by-step actions to standardize permit processes, update planning and zoning codes, improve standards for connecting solar power to the electric grid and increase access to financing.
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