June 3, 2011

Obama cutting solar costs

President Obama is on a mission to make solar cost-competitive with coal, and today the Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced another milestone in that objective: $27 million in new funding for the solar SunShot Initiative.
The program is designed to cut the fees you pay upfront to go solar. Essentially, Obama aims to streamline the expensive and cumbersome hurdles in your way, including permitting processes, zoning laws and regulations, interconnection, net metering standards, and access to financing.
What does this mean for you? With a quicker system and easier access to financing, you can go solar for lower costs (up to 40% less) and fewer roadblocks. Solar costs have already been coming down across the board, and are on track to rival coal as well.
We know from experience that there have been all kinds of headaches associated with solar, like battling your homeowner's association, waiting on the utility to connect your system to the grid (which has taken weeks or even months in some cases), and paying for costly permits.
Navigating these different local and regional systems has been difficult for homeowners and solar contractors alike. By standardizing the steps to solar, there will be a large reduction in paperwork, time and costs for all concerned.
How is the money being distributed? Through two channels:

Rooftop Solar Challenge: $12.5 Million

This first program poses the following challenge to local regional and government teams: how quickly and efficiently can you eliminate the roadblocks to PV installations? How can you improve availability of funding for homeowners?
Teams will compete for funds to basically cut through the red tape that makes solar a pain for homeowners everywhere. Ideas on the table include solar leasing and group purchasing, as well as removal of citing restrictions from local codes and land use policies. Amen to that.

Balance of System Costs: $15 Million over 3 Years

But it doesn't stop there. Local governments can also use funding from the Balance of System Costs program to create badly-needed administrative tools.
These include software design tools and databases for online permitting (imagine if you could point, click and secure a permit–amazing!), IT systems to help installers add and review permitting applications, and even technical support to help utilities incorporate solar into their day to day operations.
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