City Permitting Issues Slowing Down Solar?

Not long after the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) issued its “State of States 2010“ report indicating state policy is important for encouraging renewable energy development comes news from the 4th annual Solar America Cities meeting indicating that individual cities also have some work to do in order to help streamline solar energy adoption.

The meeting, held in Philadelphia,  included representatives from 25 different US cities who reportedly gathered to share information on emerging trends in urban energy use and to discuss addressing local barriers that stand in the way of  solar adoption. According to the statement, zoning, financing and “unwieldy permitting processes” are hindering solar development. Permitting requirements and processes in particular seem to pose a problem in that they add time and costs to both installers and system owners. In the statement, attention is called to the fact that local inexperience with photovoltaic (PV) systems has led to inconsistent regulation and enforcement of permitting requirements.

image via SolarCity

According to a January 2011 report by SunRun, a California based solar installation company,  local permitting, inspection and utility interconnection processes can add more than $2,500 to the cost of each residential installation.

During the conference, Department of Energy Acting Under Secretary of Energy Dr. Arun Majumdar announced a Request for Information (RFI) for a solar challenge that addresses permitting issues in cities. This RFI would help come up with solutions that deal with the widely varying permitting processes that exist and, ideally, save customers time and money while accelerating solar adoption across the nation.

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