Last month, a Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) team received $491,000 in Federal grant funds to develop a system that will cut red tape and cost for solar panel installations.
“Every municipality has been going about trying to set standards in a piecemeal fashion and that has added to cost,” said Neal Lurie, executive director of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association.
Non-hardware costs, such as permitting, installation, design and maintenance account for up to 40 percent of the total cost of installed rooftop system, according to the US Dept. of Energy, which awarded the grant.
A report released last year estimates that local permitting and inspection costs add roughly $2,500 to the average residential solar installation, nation-wide.
The average residential solar installation is now between $12,000 and $18,000 and half the costs are currently for permitting, regulatory, interconnection, customer acquisition, installation, and other similar charges, Lurie said.
The COSEIA team will work with municipalities to develop consistent lists of best practices, on-line tools and other standards, with the goal of cutting application costs by 25 percent, Lurie said.
“The Energy Department is investing in this Colorado project to unleash the community’s solar potential by making it faster, easier, and cheaper to finance and deploy solar power,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement.
The Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association team also includes: the Rocky Mountain Institute, the City of Denver, Boulder County, the city of Fort Collins, the city of Golden, and the American Solar Energy Society.
“We’re proud of the work that COSEIA is doing and the leadership our state’s solar industry organization is providing in this area to help cut red-tape and reduce administrative, permitting and inspection costs associated with the installation of solar energy systems here in Colorado,” said Arise Energy Solutions co-founder and CEO Jim Bartlett. “Through our experience installing systems in a number of counties and municipalities across this part of Colorado, we’ve experienced a vast range in terms of the application and permitting requirements placed on renewable-energy contractors, and it doesn’t need to be that way.”
Bartlett reiterated that all of the unique application processes used by various jurisdictions just add unnecessary time and cost to the application, permitting and inspection process, and that these costs ultimately are passed on to the system owner.
“Every additional dollar spent on aspects of the system that don’t have anything to do with actually generating electric energy, (such as application, permitting and inspection costs) just extends the time required to reach the “break-even” point for a solar solution,” said Bartlett. “Therefore, anything we can do to streamline the process and make it more “standardized” across all jurisdictions will help lower the total cost of all systems, allowing for more rapid pay-back of renewable-energy system investments, and thus provide a more compelling financial scenario for prospective system owners.”
Arise Energy Solutions, LLC is an active member of COSEIA, and designs, integrates and installs solar energy solutions for clients in the greater Denver metro area. Over the last two years Arise has worked to document some of the unique aspects of the paperwork and application processes used by the dozens of individual municipalities and counties when those jurisdictions are evaluating, permitting, inspecting and approving solar energy solutions.