As part of the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative, the Department announces $12 million in new funding aimed at streamlining and standardizing local permitting, zoning, metering, and connection processes and improving finance options to lower costs for residential and small commercial rooftop solar systems. This funding will help support innovative, locally-driven projects that will make it easier for solar energy businesses to operate efficiently and pass their savings on to customers, while creating new jobs and business opportunities across the country.
This funding opportunity, called Rooftop Solar Challenge II, is part of a broader Energy Department effort to spur solar power deployment by making it easier, faster, and cheaper to finance and install solar energy systems. The funding announced today builds on the success of the Rooftop Solar Challenge, announced in June 2011. Through that first round, 22 regional teams have worked to dramatically reduce the non-hardware or soft costs of solar, including standardizing installation and permitting fees across multiple jurisdictions, establishing group purchasing discounts, and expanding online permitting.
These soft costs can make up 40% of the cost of going solar. As solar hardware costs continue to decrease at a rapid rate, efforts such as the Rooftop Solar Challenge II will help ensure that soft cost reductions keep pace with hardware cost reductions and ultimately make solar more accessible to American consumers and businesses.
The funding focuses on scaling up the most effective approaches while also driving new innovations that further reduce permitting, installation and interconnection costs and time. This new funding will support two-and-a-half year projects led by approximately ten teams that have already demonstrated local successes in reducing the soft costs of solar and have developed a promising plan to rapidly deploy effective techniques, tools and standards at a larger scale. The selected teams, which may include teams selected in the first round, will be evaluated throughout the two-and-a-half year project period using solar market maturity models developed by the Department's SunShot Initiative.