CSE Project to Develop Streamlined Solar Permitting

Chuck Colgan's picture

DOE invests $21 million in 17 projects to speed adoption and maximize benefits

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $21.4 million to fund 17 projects to help reduce the "soft costs" commonly associated with rooftop solar energy, such as system installation, permitting and interconnection to the grid. The Center for Sustainable Energy® (CSE) is leading one project to analyze how solar permitting and related local ordinances can be streamlined and to design best practices for cities and counties nationwide that can be used to overcome jurisdictional barriers to solar deployment.

As more U.S. consumers turn toward solar energy each year, it’s fitting that nine of the awards focus on how the solar industry can sustain and accelerate market growth by understanding the motivations and factors that influence the technology adoption process, particularly in low- and moderate-income communities.

"Soft costs have been a pervasive barrier to widespread solar energy in the United States," said Dr. Charlie Gay, director of the Solar Energy Technologies Office. "Finding new ways to cut these costs remains critical in accelerating solar deployment nationwide and making solar affordable for all Americans."

Determining the best strategies for streamlined solar permitting

CSE’s team will study different authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) throughout California that already have adopted streamlined solar permitting (SSP), as well as AHJs that have not. In 2014, the state passed Assembly Bill 2188 that required each of its 540 cities and counties to adopt expedited solar permitting. However, a CSE report in July 2016 showed that only about 75 percent had established such procedures. By analyzing this diversity of jurisdictions, the team will be able to strategically design packages that are ideally suited for other jurisdictions around the country.

Under the $1.2 million award, CSE’s project takes a novel approach, using rigorous social science methodology, such as discrete choice experiments, to determine the best strategies for SSP diffusion. The team will develop nationally consistent data on the characteristics of AHJs that are relevant to SSP adoption and investigate the administrative decision-making process of early SSP adopters.

CSE’s project will result in data-driven recommendations for how to effectively engage AHJs on permitting issues, providing actionable strategies that speak to the unique factors influencing the local government decision-making process and providing the ability for AHJs to design procedures that are ideally suited for its jurisdiction. The creation of more efficient and cost-effective permitting processes will make it more affordable for people to choose solar energy.

Part of nationwide SunShot Initiative

The project is funded by the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative and supports its ongoing work to enable the widespread deployment of safe, reliable and cost-effective solar energy by developing strategies and solutions that directly reduce the costs and barriers to solar access and deployment.  

Teams participating in this program will work to support solar planning efforts in 17 states plus the District of Columbia: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. View list of awardees.

SunShot supports research and development efforts by nonprofit organizations, universities, private industry and the national laboratories to make solar power affordable and accessible for all Americans.

Chuck Colgan