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Oct 2, 2012

Cutting Red Tape to Make Solar Faster, Cheaper and Easier to Install


For the past few years, the costs of solar photovoltaic panels and hardware have seen significant declines, and that’s expected to continue. Great news for fans of solar!

Unfortunately, the remaining costs—those attributed to contracting, permitting, and installing a system—remain prohibitively high. Unless those costs fall, solar may struggle to reach mass adoption. Rocky Mountain Institute, Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association and other partners are working directly with leading communities in Colorado to tackle this challenge—making solar easier and less expensive for everyone to participate.

Solar Picture A key barrier to affordable solar power, administrative processes such as permitting and inspections can be unnecessarily costly and time consuming. In many parts of the country, these costs and all other combined “soft costs” of rooftop solar PV can account for over half the total installed costs.

In Germany, the cost of solar is much cheaper than in the United States. Subsidies have long been credited for these low costs, but a recent report by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory indicates that lower soft costs are not just a result of aggressive federal-level policy support. In reality, Germany’s low costs are the product of a mature market for solar and they point to a direction of where we need to go.

To add context, the German market has 301 MW of solar installed per million people, compared to 14 MW of installed solar per million people in the U.S. By streamlining processes that create bottlenecks in the solar installation process, communities in the U.S. can help reduce costs that are passed on to consumers, thereby making the technology cheaper and easier to install.

Making that happen will require community leaders to convene the right people around the same table,Solar Images 2 to explore opportunities to streamline the process while saving time and money. But each jurisdiction is different in some way. Building departments, which are typically responsible for approving solar permits, can have often unpredictable, unique requirements. 

To help standardize these processes, RMI recently partnered with COSEIA to launch the Solar Friendly Communities program.

Last week—as part of Solar Friendly Communities— RMI and COSEIA hosted three workshops, in which we presented a new 12-step roadmap to streamline permitting and inspections, and reduce other costs associated with administrative processes. Each step is assigned a point value, so Colorado communities can determine their level of “friendliness” and measure their progress against other communities. By offering this clear template and instilling some healthy competition, we hope to encourage these communities create favorable environments for rooftop solar.

Going forward, RMI and COSEIA will work with stakeholders to establish “Solar Friendly Communities” throughout Colorado. In doing so, we aim to help Colorado become a leading market for solar and, over time, demonstrate a scalable model that other regions can adopt.

Highlighted Resources

Commercial Solar

Building Solar Friendly Communities in

American Idole

American Idol Eat Your Heart Out: DOE
 Gets Wonky

Solar Market Transformation

Solar Market Transformation Program


Solar PV Balance of System

Solar PV Balance of System




Showing 1-2 of 2 comments

October 11, 2012

I challenge the solar installation industry to lower the cost of the equipment, use fewer collectors, provide the alternative installation location of free-standing but 7 feet overhead for "Backyards, carports, and vacant land installations." But, more than all that direct the collectors in the better direction toward the
South-south-west for increased output in the hours before local sunset.
Also, why are simple flat reflectors placed above and below each collector and one and a half times longer to twice the length used to increase the sunlight by reflecting light onto the collector by 100% to 200% at minimal cost??
something like:(Each of the following lines start with a piece of the graphic.) - 0 (Sun) This is a view from the side...

/ top reflector (/)
\ __ Solar collector (\) and ( __) bottom reflector

Thus the arrangement is similar to an open 3 ring binder with the metal rings being where the active solar panel is located and the front and rear covers about half open are reflectors directing extra sunlight onto the solar collector
These reflectors can be "Galvalume roofing panels" coated with a clear finish to keep them bright and reflective supported by simple framing and the top panel can be pivoted to act as a storm cover over the active solar panel.
I have not seen anyone offer the "Remote" alternative for city dwellers and apartment residents who want to go-solar, WAKE UP ENTREPRENEURS, lease or purchase rural land install solar PV collectors on that land with a Grid inverter and sell the total production to that local utility and use the income produced to pay the electric bill at the in-city residence. Pasture land is inexpensive to lease in rural locations and if the collectors are put up over six feet high on posts, cows or goats or sheep could graze under them, thereby allowing multi-usage so the farmer can lease the "Air Rights" inexpensively because the animals continue to utilize the shaded pasture.

October 13, 2012

Sharp Solar has just introduced a "snap on" system that consists of self-sufficient modules each with its own built-in inverter. The units are additive; you can start with two or three and snap on more later until you have the power output you want. The snap-on cells will be sold at the retail level as a home appliance. This kind of smart design will do much to bring solar to the multitudes.

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