DOE Offers $27 Million to Reduce Costs of Solar Energy Projects

June 8, 2011

Photo of a large field of solar panels in the desert.

Solar facilities like this 10-megawatt facility in Boulder City, Nevada, could improve efficiencies with support of a new SunShot Initiative program.
Credit: First Solar

DOE announced on June 1 the availability of more than $27 million in new funding that will reduce the non-hardware costs of solar energy projects as part of its SunShot Initiative. The funding will support a $12.5 million Rooftop Solar challenge to encourage cities and counties to compete to streamline and digitize permitting processes. The application deadline is August 31 for this program. The funding will also include $15 million for advancing innovations in information technology systems, local zoning and building codes and regulations, and more. Described as removing market barriers, these process improvements and innovations will help increase U.S. competitiveness in the global solar industry. The application deadline is June 23 for this opportunity.

Both funding opportunities focus on reducing "non-hardware balance-of-system" costs, which generally refer to the costs of installing solar systems that are not associated with the solar panels, mounting hardware, electronics, and other hardware. These "soft costs," including the capital required to pay for siting, permitting, and installing a solar energy system, as well as the cost of connecting it to the grid, can represent up to 40% of the total cost of the system. Navigating the differing and expensive administrative processes of various towns, cities, and counties across the nation, and securing financing for projects, are major obstacles for homeowners and developers looking to invest in solar energy. Funded projects will help standardize some processes, cut upfront fees and paperwork, and reduce the overall costs associated with permitting and installation, making it easier and less expensive for homeowners, businesses, and their local communities to deploy solar energy. See the DOE press release, the listings on Funding Opportunity Exchange website, and the SunShot Initiative website.