Nationwide: Slashing Red Tape To Speed Solar Deployment for Homes and Businesses

Project Overview
Positive Impact: Rooftop Solar Challenge helped cut permitting time by 40 percent and reduce fees by over 10 percent, opening the door to make it faster and easier for more than 47 million Americans to install solar.
Location: Washington, California, Vermont, New York, Florida, Iowa, Missouri
EERE Investment: $12M each for the first and second rounds of the challenge
Clean Energy Sector: Renewable Electricity GenerationPDF

While solar panels, inverters and other hardware are more affordable than ever before (the average cost of solar PV panels has dropped by more than 60% since 2010), the "soft," non-hardware costs such as permitting, installation, interconnection and maintenance fees now comprise up to 64% of the total price of residential solar energy systems.  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.

"Going solar" in the United States can be time consuming, and to cut through this red tape, making it faster, easier, and cheaper for Americans to go solar, EERE launched Rooftop Solar Challenge in 2011. This $12 million program is part of a larger effort to make solar energy more accessible and affordable, as well as to position the United States as a leader in the rapidly growing global solar market. In its first year, teams of city, county and state officials, regulatory entities, private industry, universities, local utilities, and other stakeholders streamlined permitting processes, updated planning and zoning codes, improved standards for connecting solar power to the grid, and increased access to financing. The combined efforts of 22 teams from 19 states and Puerto Rico helped to cut permitting time by 40% and reduce fees by more than 10% by putting permitting and plug-in approval processes on-line for millions of Americans, helping ratepayers through group purchasing programs) driving down total system costs by up to 20%), shortening permitting wait time by 40%, and reducing permitting fees by 12%. EERE launched a second round of the Rooftop Solar Challenge in 2013, with $12 million to support eight teams.

The Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) focuses on achieving the goals of the SunShot Initiative, which seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of the decade.

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