Cities Gather to Accelerate Solar Energy


"Emerging concerns include zoning, financing and unwieldy permitting processes."

Sustainable Business

Representatives from 25 U.S. cities met in Philadelphia for the 4th annual Solar America Cities conference to figure out how to accelerate solar energy.

They discussed emerging trends in urban energy use and solutions to local solar barriers, such as zoning, financing and unwieldy permitting processes.

At the conference, Department of Energy Acting Under Secretary of Energy Dr. Arun Majumdar announced a Request for Information (RFI) for a solar challenge specifically designed to address permitting issues in cities.

Local permitting processes have been identified as a major barrier for implementing solar.

In a recent article, we pointed to the benefits that would accrue from a standardized permitting system. Currently, winding through various local permitting processes adds $0.50 per watt, or about $2500 to the total cost for customers.

Standardized local permitting would bring the cost of solar to grid parity for 50% of American homes by 2013. It would close Germany's 40% cost advantage, while delivering the equivalent of a new $1 billion solar subsidy over five years.

DOE's RFI focuses on four areas crucial to solar market growth: standardizing permitting processes; improving interconnection and net metering standards; increasing access to financing; and minimizing siting restrictions.

The challenge builds on the success of the Solar America Cities program in lowering solar energy costs, and supports the DOE SunShot initiative to reduce solar costs 75% by the end of the decade.

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