Helping citizens go solar by streamlining permits
Posted by Rebecca Cantwell
Colorado citizens should soon find it easier to go solar through a new program to streamline permitting for solar energy systems.
The Solar Friendly Communities initiative will work in collaboration with cities and counties across the Front Range and Eastern Plains to cut red tape to make the process simpler for local governments, faster for solar installers and less expensive for citizens who want to use solar energy.
A team led by the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) and including the cities of Denver, Fort Collins and Golden, Boulder County, the Rocky Mountain Institute and the American Solar Energy Society won one of 22 regional Rooftop Solar Challenge grants from the U.S. Department of Energy. The DOE kicked off the national program Feb. 29 with a webinar for the winning teams.
"This program will make it easier for Colorado residents and businesses to go solar by helping local governments learn from one another and to provide public recognition for communities that grow more solar friendly,'' said Neal Lurie, executive director of COSEIA. "It will speed the spread of a locally powered, job-creating clean energy source with no fuel costs.''
The program is part of the Rooftop Solar Challenge powered by the federal government's SunShot initiative. The Department of Energy's effort aims to reduce the cost of solar energy so that becomes price competitive without subsidies by the end of the decade.
A national survey released last week found that solar energy is the most popular of 13 clean energy technologies, with 77 percent of respondents viewing it favorably and only 6 percent holding a negative opinion. Boulder-based Pike Research's consumer survey of 1,000 U.S. adults found that, "The high levels of favorable impressions across gender, income, education, and age segments suggest that (solar energy) enjoys widespread appeal from the mass market.''
The Solar Friendly Communities team will identify best practices and develop educational resources to help cities and counties cut red tape and then implement a recognition program to reward communities who take steps to encourage solar energy.
Solar systems are rapidly dropping in cost and thus becoming increasingly appealing to a broad range of citizens. Currently "soft'' costs including permitting, installation, regulatory and other related costs account for up to 40 percent of a rooftop solar system. According to a recent report by SunRun, local permitting and inspection processes add about $2,500 to the cost of each residential system.
The requirements vary dramatically across Colorado's more than 200 cities and towns, its 64 counties and its 65 utilities. In some places, it takes 20 days to get a permit for a standard residential solar system while in others, it takes only a day.
This program is open to local governments across the Front Range. Beyond the four partner communities, the Solar Friendly Communities team is reaching out to metro Denver, Front Range and eastern plains communities to join an affiliate program and reap the benefits. A partner program led by California-based Optony is working in southern and western Colorado.
The project will work to establish best practices for permitting, interconnection, zoning, financing and other related areas based on proven experience and quantifiable data. Then the team will help communities through training, online tools, individual support and analysis of progress.
The Solar Friendly Communities project will recognize leading cities and counties that will show the nation that Colorado communities are taking important steps to make it easier for their citizens to go solar.
Consumers around the nation are very interested in solar energy, Pike’s survey found. “With a majority of respondents (47%) indicating a “very favorable” impression, solar energy represents one of the least controversial green technologies in the eyes of consumers. Pike Research attributes the high level of consumer acceptance to the relatively long history of solar energy in the market, its variety of applications, and the non-intrusive nature of most solar technologies including photovoltaic (PV) panels.’’
Solar energy drew the highest rate of favorable opinions and the lowest rate of unfavorable opinions of 13 energy and environmental concepts in the Energy& Environment Consumer survey done in the last quarter of 2011 by the Boulder-based research group.
Other clean energy technologies and concepts surveyed include: Wind energy, Clean coal, Nuclear power, Hybrid vehicles, Biofuels, Electric cars, Natural gas cars, Smart grid, Smart meters, Carbon offsets/credits, Cap and trade and LEED certification.
To learn more about the COSEIA project, contact me at email@example.com.
To access the full Pike Research report, go to http://www.pikeresearch.com/research/energy-environment-consumer-survey.