Last week the Northern and Central California SunShot Alliance said they are looking into how solar power could be installed and connected to the grid on rooftops within a day. That would be quite a step because currently it takes about two months after signing for solar to actually start using solar power. And, in many places it can take a lot longer.
It’s entirely possible. Solar panels and the other equipment necessary for a solar rooftop can be installed within one day. However the paperwork, the permitting and inspection process can take much longer—these so called soft costs of solar represent the greatest opportunity for reducing the cost and time it takes to go solar.
That’s why the alliance, a group of solar companies, cities and utilities are partnering to reduce the time it takes to go from signing a contract for solar and actually producing electricity from that solar array that’s ready for the grid. The alliance includes Pacific Gas and Electric Company, SolarCity, Qado Energy, Accela and the City of Livermore. The alliance is competing for a portion of $10 million that’s being offered as prize money through the Department of Energy SunShot Initiative’s "SunShot Prize: Race to 7-Day Solar".
"This is a unique opportunity to work closely with government and industry partners to greatly improve the solar experience—from permitting to installation,” said Maury Blackman, president and CEO of Accela. “We're excited to work with motivated local governments and our team of industry leaders to further revolutionize the end-to-end process and cycle times for rooftop solar installations.”
The alliance is planning to compete in the small systems category—systems under 100 kilowatts in size. That part of the challenge has a first-place prize of $3 million and second-place prize of $1 million. The alliance also is competing for a bonus, $100,000 prize—the Change Prize Award, which will help develop technologies to make it easier to go solar.
"With more than 180,000 solar rooftops in our service area, PG&E understands that solar power is a vital part of our country’s energy future," said Laurie Giammona, senior vice president and chief customer officer of PG&E. “Through close coordination with our partners, our goal for this competition is to dramatically improve the 'going solar' process so that more Americans can take advantage of this valuable resource.”
“Rooftop solar can grow even faster across America if we can improve local permitting and interconnection," said Nick Armstrong, a regional vice president at SolarCity. “Regardless of who wins, we believe this contest will demonstrate that compliance with permit streamlining requirements in AB 2188, approved by the Legislature last year and effective on September 30, 2015, is achievable and that means making it even easier and less expensive to go solar.”