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DOE's SolSmart program helps builders reduce soft costs for solar.

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Patricia Gunderson, P.E.
January 27, 2017

SolSmart Serves Up Soft Cost Savings

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has made big investments in helping solar photovoltaic become cost competitive with traditional fuel sources for building use. A recurrent issue in this effort has been the “soft costs” of PV – i.e., the short and long-term overhead dollars spent to make any particular solar installation possible, outside of the equipment itself. A 2014 report co-authored by subject matter experts from Yale University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of Texas at Austin, and DOE, describes the typical pot of money that is on the line.

When you compare the soft costs for a typical PV installation using optimized permitting procedures versus traditional permitting practices, the savings could be several thousand dollars! And those dollars matter - to your bottom line. The SolSmart program aims to solve lots of these soft-cost-associated problems by working directly with city and county building departments and leadership. SolSmart is a voluntary designation for communities to optimize and streamline building department processes such as permit applications, inspections, code compliance, trades coordination, zoning, and even marketing. Already, 29 communities have become SolSmart designated by streamlining their solar processes to make going solar faster, cheaper, and easier!

If you’ve ever struggled with a less-than-perfect permitting process, or worse, had to abandon a plan for PV due to administrative or process barriers, then you understand the benefit of this opportunity. SolSmart can provide expert advice, sample code language, example streamlined permit applications, and optimal fee and time schedules. Builders and developers can benefit from their community’s participation in SolSmart. Help launch a productive relationship and start your community on a trajectory for solar success by using your professional relationship to make building department staff and leadership aware of SolSmart.

Home Innovation’s staff is also happy to reach out to your local contacts, if you'd prefer -- just use our online contact form to let us know the name and contact info for the person you know who might be receptive to this opportunity. You can also let us know if there are other ways you think we should be spreading the word about SolSmart.

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