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DOE: $27 Million to Cut Solar Project Costs, Permitting Hoops

As part of the SunShot Initiative, the U.S. Department of Energy is making more than $27 million in new funding available to reduce the non-hardware costs of solar energy projects.

The funding will support a $12.5 million challenge to encourage cities and counties to compete to streamline and digitize permitting processes, as well as $15 million that will be made available to advance innovations in information technology systems, local zoning and building codes and regulations, and more.

Both funding opportunities focus on reducing “non-hardware balance of system” costs, which generally refer to the costs of installing solar systems not associated with the solar panels, mounting hardware, electronics, etc. These “soft costs,” including the capital required to pay for siting, permitting, and installation, as well as the cost of connecting the systems to the grid, can represent up to 40 percent of the total cost of the solar energy system.

These projects also hope to help standardize some of the differing and expensive administrative processes of various towns, cities, and counties across the nation and securing financing for their projects, cut upfront fees and paperwork, and reduce the overall costs associated with permitting and installation.

More details:

Rooftop Solar Challenge – up to $12.5 million

Under the Rooftop Solar Challenge local and regional government teams can compete for funds to help eliminate administrative barriers to residential and small commercial photovoltaic solar installations and improve the availability of financing for solar projects. This Challenge incentivizes local governments to develop innovative solutions in four key areas: standardizing permitting processes; updating planning and zoning codes; improving interconnection and net metering standards; and increasing access to financing.

Every jurisdiction in each winning team must adopt the same processes. The winners will also remove siting restrictions from local codes and land use policies and will increase access to financing options for homeowners by promoting financing mechanisms like solar leasing and group purchasing.

Balance of System Costs – up to $15 million over three years

This funding opportunity will create tools that local governments can use to streamline and expedite the process of installing solar energy. DOE will fund one or more recipients under each of the following topic areas:

Codes, Standards and Processes – Projects in this topic area will work to improve existing codes, standards, and permitting processes; train code officials on new codes; and develop best practices and model codes that can be used in communities nationwide.

Software Design Tools and Databases – Projects in this topic area will develop a range of IT systems and databases, including a utility-scale planning tool that identifies sites available for solar project development, IT tools to help installers and local governments prepare and process permit applications, and a database of local permitting processes nationwide.

Regulatory and Utility Solutions – Projects in this topic area will provide technical support for utilities to better integrate solar energy into utility operations. Projects will also provide support for states as they develop or improve the regulatory frameworks necessary to sustain a growing solar market.

A description of the solicitation and challenge, eligibility requirements and application instructions can be found here.

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5 thoughts on “DOE: $27 Million to Cut Solar Project Costs, Permitting Hoops

  1. Again here we go again – creating more government jobs. Let private industry handle these subsidized costs and those that want the installations. Why should I as a tax payer pay for the development of this?

  2. We all, as a society pay, about 150 billion a year in health care costs resulting from burning fossil fuels. Should we keep paying this human and economic burden or promote clean and healthy alternatives?
    Why should society pay fossil fuel hidden costs when alternatives are becoming economically? viable

  3. Matt –

    First of all, these initiatives do not involve the creation of more government jobs. Nowhere in the article is that claim substantiated.

    Second, you should support them because you as an individual will benefit from the reduction in AGW. And because you will benefit from the increased economic activity in your region.

    Third, you should be happy because these initiatives are seeking to reduce, not to increase, governmental red tape. And there are no new subsidies being proposed here – merely attempts to cut governmental fees and administrative costs.

  4. Adding to Matt and Pat’s point, the government subsidies are like the little push for the solar technology to fight the wealthy lobbyists from the oil companies. Solar and Wind is required to help us become an energy independent nation and not depend on other countries or mess up our bays/ecosystems for getting fossil fuel.This is the first step towards a sustainable lifestyle. US needs to show the world that it is doing whatever is in its power to reduce its carbon footprint and will not stop short of even financial measures to reduce pollution.

  5. The reason there are the fees is to generate revenue. No government entity wants to give up revenue. The incentive is to help them do the right thing by reducing or elimintaing fees. It is a good thing. (BTW, all laws and regulations should by statute have ‘sunset clauses’ to them so they expire without renewal. that would elimintate a lot of wasteful regulations.)

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