The average retail price of home solar power systems is higher in the United States than what it is in other countries that have been significant adopters of solar power. This prompts the question, why?
While the tariffs imposed on Chinese solar panels in 2012, and the difficulty of installing solar panels on some common roof types, may be part of the answer, there is no doubt that a significant reason is because of the paperwork a solar company, and their customer, must go through to install a solar power system on the property.
There are building and zoning permits that must be obtained, and these vary from county to county, requiring a significant amount of time and money for solar companies and their customers. In countries where home solar power systems have reached high penetration levels, up to 20% of homes in some parts of Germany and Australia, there are exemptions in place which make it unnecessary to apply for zoning and building approvals for solar projects that would apply to other home renovation projects. It is notable that both of these countries have per watt retail solar system prices that are significantly lower than in the United States.
Individual inspections are also required of solar power systems by government agencies and utilities in the United States. These, too, are time consuming to organize and attend and add to the overall cost of installing a solar power system. We don’t inspect every tank of gas before it is loaded into a car, and it is not necessary to inspect every solar system that is installed. The reason we don’t inspect every tank of gas that goes into a car is that there are standards in place that ensure the quality of that product. This is also true of solar power systems in other countries and should be in the case in the United States.
Standards are already in place to govern, both the products that are allowed to be used in solar installations, and also the qualifications a contractor must have to install a system. These licensing standards can be seen here on SolarReviews or in a less concise way on the www.dsire.org website.
It is imperative that a similar exemption be introduced in the United States. The solar industry is now economically viable, even with only very modest and affordable levels of government support. By lowering the burden of regulation, which adds no value and keeps the cost of solar installations artificially high, the solar industry can continue to expand, creating even more jobs in an industry that is rapidly expanding.