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Rooftop Solar Challenge to Cut Solar's Red Tape

December 1, 2011 - 4:35pm

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Up to 40 percent of the cost of installing solar panels onto your home or business isn't related to hardware at all, but rather due to complications from "soft costs," like permitting, zoning, and hooking your system up to the power grid. In fact, according to a report released earlier this year by SunRun, local permitting and inspection processes alone add more than $2,500 per residential installation nationwide. To add to the problem, permitting and other processes are often complicated and vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

In order to make solar energy competitive with other types of energy, it will be critical to reduce these barriers. To spur change, Secretary Chu announced today $12 million in funding for 22 regional teams competing in the Energy Department’s "Rooftop Solar Challenge.”

Using President Obama's "Race to the Top" model, each of the teams will cut red tape to make it easier for Americans to go solar. Teams will implement step-by-step actions throughout the next year to standardize permit processes, update planning and zoning codes, improve standards for connecting solar power to the electric grid, and increase access to financing.  

The map above details all 22 teams' locations, the projects each team will be undertaking, and the amount of funding they've been awarded. In total, their projects will cover a total population of more than 51 million Americans.

As examples, the team led by City University of New York aims to shorten the city’s approval process from one year to 100 days by creating an online multi-agency portal; the Broward County, Florida, team plans to remove local ordinances that create obstacles to solar installations and to create a unified online system for permitting and interconnection to reduce costs and wait time; and the Massachusetts team plans to use five pilot communities to determine best practices that can be replicated, as well as remove financing hurdles for homeowners.

The Rooftop Solar Challenge is part of the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, to make solar energy cost-competitive with any other form of energy by the end of the decade, and part of the Department’s larger effort to 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.”
 

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