Solar Permitting Toolbox

 Park City 1

 
 The Marsac building, Park City's city hall, was built in 1936 under the New Deal. In 2010 the building received a makeover that included the installation of an 18 kilowatt solar PV system.

The price of solar is declining and more homeowners and businesses are investing in solar energy. While continual improvements and breakthroughs are helping to reduce the hard costs of solar PV, the single biggest challenge to reducing solar prices in the U.S. is the non-hardware costs – or “soft costs.” The “soft costs” of solar are associated with local permitting processes, approval times, fees, inspections, utility interconnection procedures, local zoning requests, and other administrative costs, and currently make up at least 30-40% of the total installed cost of rooftop solar PV.[i]

Across the country, solar customers and installers face a patchwork of permitting, zoning, and interconnection rules from more than 18,000 cities and 5,000 utilities. Despite the rigorous national standards for safety and code compliance for solar, there is no standardized national approach to local solar processes. Every town, county, state, and utility service territory has a different set of ordinances, procedures, and regulations. The resulting unpredictability and market instability stemming from this inconsistency ultimately leads to higher costs. In fact, recent studies have shown that local rules and procedures can have an enormous impact on the out-of-pocket price paid by the solar consumer—adding upwards of $500 per installed kilowatt of solar (or $2,500 for an average 5-kilowatt residential solar installation).

By streamlining and simplifying the local solar permitting process, local governments, utilities, and the solar installer community can simultaneously cut red tape, save taxpayer dollars, and spur local solar market activity.  The following resources and tools are designed to make simplifying the solar process easy, fast, and cheap. 

  • Trainings and Tools for Code Officials

    • National Training & Education Resource Online Training Course:

      This free online training program was created by the U.S. Department of Energy for building and electrical code officials who perform inspections for residential photovoltaic solar energy installations. This training program will help establish a consistent and streamlined PV inspection process in jurisdictions throughout the country, saving time and reducing costs for consumers.
    • Solar PV Code Inspection Guide:

      This document provides an outline of what Code Inspection Officials will need in order to verify a solar installation.

[i] Wang, Ucilia. "Federal Report Quantifies PV Solar 'Soft Costs'" Renewable Energy World. p., 9 Nov. 2012. <http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/11/federal-report-quantifies-pv-solar-soft-costs>.

 

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