This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

November 13, 2013

Energy Department Invests $12 Million to Speed Solar Deployments

The Energy Department on November 6 announced eight teams to spur solar power deployment by cutting red tape for residential and small commercial rooftop solar systems. As part of the Department's Rooftop Solar Challenge, these teams will receive about $12 million—matched by more than $4 million in outside funding—to streamline and standardize solar permitting, zoning, metering, and connection processes for communities across the country.

The Energy Department’s Rooftop Solar Challenge is a part of a larger effort to make solar energy more accessible and affordable and position the United States as a leader in the rapidly-growing global solar market. Non-hardware, or "soft," costs like permitting, installation, design and maintenance now account for more than 60% of the total cost of installed rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems in the United States. Across the nation, 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, managed by the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative, brings together city, county, and state officials; regulatory entities; private industry; universities; local utilities; and other regional stakeholders to address differing and expensive processes required to install and finance residential and small business solar systems. During the Challenge’s first round, 22 regional teams worked to dramatically reduce the soft costs of solar—serving as models for other communities across the country. These efforts helped cut permitting time by 40% and reduce fees by more than 10%—making it faster and easier for more than 47 million Americans to install solar.

Building on the Challenge’s first round, the eight announced teams will help further expand the reach of innovative strategies that are making it easier, faster, and cheaper for more homeowners and businesses to finance and install solar systems. These awardees will develop and replicate creative solutions that help standardize complicated permitting and interconnection processes that often vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; facilitate easy, cheaper bulk purchasing; and support user-friendly, fast online applications. For example, The New England Solar Cost-Reduction Partnership will build a thriving regional solar market by increasing coordination across Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont and refining and deploying innovations developed in Connecticut and Massachusetts during Rooftop Solar Challenge I. See the Energy Department press release and the full list of the eight teams and their projects.

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