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

The Rocky Mountain Institute is partnering with leading Colorado communities to address the contracting, permitting and installation costs of solar photovoltaic panels.

  • PV installation
    More than half of the cost of solar power comes from contracting, permitting and installing the solar PV system.
    Photo by Fotolia/Elenathewise

  • PV installation

This article is posted with permission from the Rocky Mountain Institute.

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.

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.

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