DOE funding to tackle solar energy bottlenecks

The U.S. Department of Energy announced $27 million in funding to help streamline local permitting processes for solar energy projects.

The effort will focus on reducing the costs of installing solar systems not associated with the panels, mounting hardware or electronics. 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 a solar energy system’s total cost. Projects funded by DOE will help standardize processes, cut upfront fees and paperwork and reduce the overall costs associated with permitting and installation.

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

The funding opportunities are:

Rooftop Solar Challenge - up to $12.5 million

Local and regional government teams can compete for funds to help eliminate administrative barriers to residential and small commercial photovoltaic (PV) solar developments and improve the availability of financing for solar projects. The challenge incentivizes local governments to develop innovative solutions in standardizing permitting processes, updating planning and zoning codes, improving interconnection and net metering standards and increasing access to financing.

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 solarenergy 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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