A team of municipalities, utilities and nonprofit organizations led by the Washington State Department of Commerce has been awarded more than $520,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy to accelerate the use of solar power in the state.
Partners in the project are the Cities of Seattle, Bellevue, Edmonds, and Ellensburg; Seattle City Light, Snohomish Public Utilities District and Puget Sound Energy; Northwest SEED; Solar WA; Thurston Energy; Sustainable Connections.
“We are very encouraged that the Department of Energy is supporting the joint efforts of local governments and utilities to streamline processes to produce renewable energy in our neighborhoods,” said Daniel Malarkey Washington State Department of Commerce Deputy Director. “Commerce is pleased to convene this group of utilities and local leaders to rethink how we can be most responsive to community needs while tapping the full potential of renewable energy. Governments working together can help create a larger market that will help bring costs down.”
The grant announced this month will provide $523,800 to streamline and standardize permitting, zoning, net metering and interconnection processes while also improving financing options, reducing barriers and lowering the cost to install residential and small commercial rooftop solar energy equipment. Among the improvements the Washington team will work to create are an online permitting system, shorter permitting turnaround times and resolve barriers.
“Developing new, renewable energy resources is a critical component for reducing our impact on the environment, particularly climate change,” Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said. “Solar energy can be part of that solution. Working together, this group has an opportunity to make it easier for residents and small businesses to tap into the sustainable, clean power of the sun.”
“We want to make installing clean, renewable solar energy as easy and cost-effective as possible,” said Snohomish PUD Energy Efficiency Program Manager Jessica Mitchell. “This new system will help streamline the process and reduce costs, eliminating many unnecessary hurdles for our customers and trade allies.”
Such steps would encourage customers and small businesses to install solar panels, supporting jobs throughout the area.
“Sun Shot invites stakeholders to adopt a standard process for any customer who wants to purchase solar, no matter where they live or which utility serves their electric load,” said Jennifer Grove, Executive Director, Northwest SEED. “As advocates for clean, distributed energy in Washington, we’re excited to take part in making it easier to go solar for customers, communities and utilities, and we look forward to helping boost the economy through increased solar installation activity.”
This award is part of $12 million in funding for the Rooftop Solar Challenge under U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. This challenge is part of the Energy Department’s larger effort to make solar energy more accessible and affordable, increase domestic solar deployment, and position the U.S. as a leader in the rapidly-growing global solar market.
“Through this competition, the Energy Department is investing in this Washington project to unleash the community’s solar potential by making it faster, easier, and cheaper to finance and deploy solar power,” U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said. “These awards will reduce the costs to homeowners and businesses of installing solar energy systems, while saving money and time for local governments faced with tight budgets.”
Non-hardware, or “soft,” costs like permitting, installation, design and maintenance currently account for up to 40 percent of the total cost of installed rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems in the U.S. Across the nation today, there are more than 18,000 local jurisdictions with their own PV permitting requirements, land use codes and zoning ordinances; more than 5,000 utilities that are implementing standards for connecting and selling energy back to the energy grid; and all 50 states are developing their own connection standards and processes for supplying and pricing energy sold back to the grid. According to a report released earlier this year by SunRun, local permitting and inspection processes alone add $0.50 per watt, or $2,500 per residential installation nation-wide.
See the full list of awards HERE.
An interactive map of the awardees can be found HERE.
Visit the Rooftop Solar Challenge website.
The DOE SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort to make solar cost-competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. Reducing the installed cost of solar energy systems by about 75 percent will drive widespread large-scale adoption of solar—fortifying U.S. leadership in the global clean energy race while spurring new industries and job creation across the nation. For more information, visit the SunShot Initiative website.
DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy invests in clean energy technologies that strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.