Simplifying Permitting and Cutting Costs for Solar Projects

Amongst recent statistics supporting clean energy investment, nearly half of U.S. homeowners are interested in installing solar panels on their property. It’s a promising sentiment, since installing solar panels on just 25% of US homes could save the U.S. $88 billion under current conditions, and $473 billion by 2050 under a 95% clean electricity target:

“Expanding local solar and storage on the distribution system reduces the need for power plants that only run on peak power days. It also better manages demand by offering more local energy products that customers want, which can increase grid resilience and reduce overall costs on the distribution and transmission grid.” - Michelle Lewis on Local Solar Roadmap

If solar power is appealing to a large portion of homeowners, with a calculated benefit to the grid as a whole, why aren’t there more solar panels on houses? In the same Pew survey that found 46% of U.S. homeowners are open to installing them, only another 6% have actually done so.

A major obstacle is the cost of permitting and inspection, also known as “soft costs.” In fact, soft costs currently comprise at least ⅓ of the total price for an average household solar installation. While the costs of hardware and installation have decreased dramatically over the last 10 years, the soft costs have effectively remained the same.

The blame isn’t so much on the existence of permitting and inspection, they surely have important roles, but rather on the rigidity and complexity of the U.S. regulatory landscape. In fact, there are over 36,000 Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) across the 50 states, and permitting currently averages 30-40 days.

“Locating the authority that has jurisdiction to approve a rooftop solar project is only the beginning. What are the building codes, electrical codes and fire codes that can change project design from one town or city to the next?” - Matthew Hirsch, Solar Builder Mag.

The most effective remedy would be structural reform on a national level, which may be on the horizon with a Biden presidency. Standardizing and simplifying permitting for commercial solar is the logical next step in keeping up with its increasing popularity, a non-partisan movement towards efficiency.

In line with that, Raise Green is engaged in streamlining the solar permitting process by partnering with Blu Banyan and the Orange Button Initiative on a project to harness a crowd-sourced registry of all solar AHJs. Coupled with our Originator Engine, the AHJ database aids in contract automation and permitting, reducing the need for tedious research on local solar regulations.

It’s an exciting time to be developing local solar projects! With reduced costs and anticipated federal support, we may soon witness a paradigm shift in how our energy is generated and stored.

If you’re interested in starting your own clean energy project, Raise Green can help with both the development (Originator Engine) and funding (Marketplace). Or if you’re interested in investing in an existing project, you can create an investor account for free here.

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