U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently announced the availability of more than $27 million in new funding that will reduce the non-hardware costs of solar energy projects. The funding will support a $12.5 million challenge to encourage cities and counties to compete to streamline and digitize the permitting processes, as well as $15 million that will be made available to advance innovations in information technology systems, local zoning and building codes and regulations. The components are further described below.
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.
More information on the Rooftop Solar Challenge, including the solicitation and application dates can be found here.