The DOE has announced the availability of $27 million in funding towards new solar energy solutions designed to make solar energy cost-competitive within the decade. As part of the SunShot Initiative, the funding will streamline permitting and installation, reducing the non-hardware costs of solar energy projects.
"These investments under the SunShot program can help to transform the solar energy industry by addressing significant challenges to solar energy deployment, including permitting and installation," says U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Chu. "Innovations in IT and local business processes, such as online permit applications, can deliver significant savings for solar energy systems and will help America to compete globally in this growing market."
The DOE has outlined the steps it will be taking to streamline processes and reduce administration costs:
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 (PV) 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, which will help address the challenge of different communities having different sets of rules and regulations. 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 innovative 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.
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