According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), up to half the cost of a residential rooftop photovoltaic (PV) system can be eaten up in “soft costs,” such as permitting, interconnection and inspection fees. Reducing these non-hardware costs of installations is one of the goals of the DOE’s SunShot Initiative, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently put $7 million in funding behind the effort.

Since 2007, DOE has invested $60 million in the SunShot Incubator Program for photovoltaics, which has attracted more than $1.3 billion in private investment. Although the Incubator has traditionally focused on hardware, the new funding is meant to complement this summer’s Rooftop Solar Challenge funding opportunity, which will support teams in streamlining interconnection, net metering and permitting standards and process, and creating innovative financing mechanisms for rooftop PV across jurisdictions.

solar panels
image via Shutterstock

The new funding solicitation aims to help applicants develop data-driven software tools to reduce non-hardware costs, such as labor, permitting and inspection, customer acquisition, financing, and contracting. The funding will be awarded in two tiers, to help applicants develop products, and then transition them into full-scale deployment. Concept papers are due by January 16, 2012. More information can be found here.

The overall goal of SunShot is to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional energy sources by the end of the decade.

“Even if you paid nothing for the hardware, you’d still pay thousands of dollars to install a residential solar power system,” Secretary Chu said in a statement. “This SunShot Initiative will help reduce costs such as permitting and installation, and spur American innovation to deploy solar energy at homes and businesses across the country.”

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