US: DOE launches $12 million Rooftop Solar Challenge

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The DOE says that the photovoltaic technology itself is not an issue, but rather it is the non-hardware costs, including permitting, installation, design and maintenance, which make installing solar so expensive.

It explains that these "soft" costs account for up to 40 percent of the total cost of U.S. photovoltaic rooftop installations. Furthermore, according to a report released by SunRun, local permitting and inspection processes contribute around $0.50 per watt, or $2,500 to each residential installation.

DOE adds, "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."

As such, a need has been identified to both streamline and standardize permitting zoning, metering, and connection processes, and to improve financing options.

In order to achieve this, 22 teams, comprised of city, county, and state officials, regulatory entities, private industry, universities, local utilities and other regional stakeholders, will adopt a "race to the top" model to improve the way photovoltaic rooftop systems are installed. As DOE states, through the implementation of step-by-step actions, the goal is to, "clear a path for rapid expansion of solar energy and serve as models for other communities across the country."