Project Permit: Cutting Red Tape for Green Energy

Few outside of the solar industry realize how much of an impact local governments can have on the price tag of PV. But with solar module prices having dropped fast and far over the past few years, ‘soft’ costs like local permitting represent the most significant opportunity to keep rooftop solar prices trending down.

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Today, more than 18,000 municipalities set their own permitting requirements for residential solar energy systems. As a result, permitting requirements vary dramatically city by city. As any solar installer knows – long waits, high fees, excessive inspections, avoidable paperwork and non-standard practices across different jurisdictions can all add unnecessary costs to what should be a simple, transparent process. 

Which is why we are excited to beta launch Project Permit, an interactive website that targets local permitting to make solar more affordable nationwide. It’s designed to help solar stakeholders like you understand how your town’s permitting practices stack up and what can be done to improve them. 

Chances are, your own hometown is one of those that could stand to improve its solar permitting procedures. Here’s what you can do: See how your community measures up to best practices on our interactive solar permitting map. And if it’s lagging, put our local advocacy toolkit to call on your mayor for action! 

As of our beta launch we have information for 800 communities. It’s beta so you can help us make it betta (get it!?). If you see a city that’s missing data help us out by adding it yourself at SolarPermit.org.

Because it represents such a strong opportunity for continued residential solar cost reduction, permitting has become a priority issue for many in the solar industry.

“We’ve found that out of the thousands of solar projects Clean Power Finance facilitates, permitting issues cause more delays than any other issue,” said Matt Ziskin director of product incubation at Clean Power Finance. “Removing unnecessary permitting requirements is one if the keys to making U.S. solar installation costs competitive.”

“Based on our 2011 study, inconsistent local permitting standards add an average of over $2,500 to the cost of each home solar installation across the country,” added Bryan Miller, VP of public policy & power markets at Sunrun, one of the nation’s leading residential solar companies. “We’ve been working diligently to remove or significantly lower this cost and help Americans save money by switching to solar.” 

Jane Weissman, executive director of the non-profit Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s (IREC), points out that streamlined permitting practices are a win for cities too: “We have found that permitting improvements can save time and costs for everyone involved – city staff, solar installers and customers alike. The best practices we’ve helped outline on Project Permit make it easy to make sure your hometown is open for solar business.” 

We were proud to have worked with a number of great partners on this project. We developed the site with funding from Solar 3.0, a DOE Sunshot Initiative program managed by SolarTech. The data for our community scores comes from from SolarPermit.org, a free, crowd-sourced resource run by Clean Power Finance with further SunShot support. Project Permit then scores that local data against best practices metrics developed by Vote Solar and IREC.

Now people like you are the final piece of this collaborative campaign. We hope you’ll put it to good use at home lowering those solar costs.

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Rosalind manages media, member and donor relations for Vote Solar, a non-profit working to make solar energy a mainstream resource across the U.S. Prior to joining Vote Solar, Rosalind spent five years directing and implementing PR campaigns for all manner of clean energy and sustainable business innovators. She has a degree in Environmental Science and Mass Communications from UC Berkeley.

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