Gone are the days when consumers had to wonder if they could put solar panels on their home, whether they were getting the best deal on their rooftop photovoltaic (PV) system, or how long it would take to receive a permit for installation. Today’s solar market is becoming much easier to navigate thanks to the combined efforts of Energy Department partners working on the SunShot Initiative.
The SunShot Initiative has identified the “soft costs” of solar energy as a primary industry barrier that requires urgent attention. These soft costs include customer acquisition, system design and permitting costs, and they can account for more than half of a solar energy system’s total installed price. But this is all changing. Smarter, streamlined and simplified solutions are allowing solar to become more cost-competitive with other forms of electricity.
For example, customers in California, Arizona, Hawaii and Nevada can now instantly find their home’s solar potential with the click of a mouse. Sun Number — a company founded in 2012 with a SunShot Incubator award — has taken all of the guesswork out of solar analysis by combining high-resolution aerial data, mapping software and advanced algorithms into an easy-to-use online platform. By simply inputting your address, you can find out how much a PV system would save you in utility costs each year. Plus by using the Sun Number site, you can save hundreds dollars in home analysis.
OK, so your house is solar friendly, but the process of getting quotes from local installers can seem more intimidating than a big box parking lot on Black Friday. Rest easy, Cyber Monday supporters. A new website from another SunShot Incubator company gives potential PV system purchasers a one-stop shop to compare online sales quotes. EnergySage.com is providing prospective solar consumers with more choices and unprecedented levels of transparency into PV prices, as well as product and installer quality. Their competitive online sales quotes — think Lending Tree or Orbitz for solar — not only help buyers to make a decision, they also make it easier to make the right decision.
Now that your solar dream is becoming a reality, you might think you’ll have to hit the snooze button repeatedly to allow enough time for your permit application to get approved. Well rise and shine, because it’s a new day for permitting processes in jurisdictions throughout the country. A recent report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found significant improvements to city-level permitting processes by governments participating in the SunShot Rooftop Solar Challenge. In fact, the LBNL findings suggest that streamlined, web-based permitting processes have the potential to reduce the price of a 4-kW residential PV system by $1,000 or more and cut implementation time by about a month.
These are just a few examples of efforts supported by the Energy Department and SunShot Initiative that are empowering consumers to become energy independent. To see more, visit the SunShot website.