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A new report from SunRun recently revealed that permitting can significantly increase the cost of residential solar PV projects, adding as much as 20 percent to total project costs. One large solar installer in California has two full-time “runners” whose entire job is dedicated to taking solar permit applications to city offices that require an in-person submission.
The problem of permit costs looms ever larger as solar module and installation costs fall, making permitting an even larger portion of project costs. The adjacent chart illustrates the cost of permitting for residential solar PV, based on the size and cost per Watt of the project. SunRun found average permitting costs of $2,500 per project.
Fortunately, there are already best-practice standards for solar permitting from the Solar America Board of Codes and Standards (Solar ABCs), and the SunRun report finds that implementing these practices can reduce permitting costs by 75 percent, to around $600. The following table, taken from the report, details how the savings can be achieved. The cost savings can be achieved across nearly every category of the permitting process:
For comparison, the following chart illustrates the substantial difference in the portion of project costs related to permitting when best practices are implemented.
Updated 3 PM: Preliminary numbers had suggested that Southern California Edison’s distributed rooftop solar PV purchase would be among the most cost-effective solar projects in the world, and data released yesterday confirmed that:
Southern California Edison has selected 250 MW worth of solar bids from companies able to produce solar electricity for 20 years for less money annually than the 20 year levelized cost of energy of a combined-cycle natural gas turbine power plant.
SCE’s bidding process for smaller renewable projects is smart. These small projects do not face the multi-year bureaucratic delays for extensive reviews, like most utility-scale solar, so each small unit can be built as quickly as normal commercial rooftop solar projects. They are made up of multiple distributed solar installations of under 20 MW, which in combination total a power plant-sized 250 MW.
…The requirement is that the renewable energy has to be priced to cost no more than the Market Price Referent (MPR) – which is an annual calculation of the 20 year levelized cost of energy of a combined cycle gas turbine.
The MPR has recently been around 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, so the solar PV projects will produce electricity for less than the retail rate in southern California. There’s indication of enormous distributed PV demand, because SCE received bids for up to 2,500 MW of projects, but only accepted 250 MW.
Overruling a utility challenge, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) affirmed today that states have the right to set prices for mandated renewable energy purchases and that these prices may vary by technology:
“[W]here a state requires a utility to procure energy from generators with certain characteristics,” the state may set the wholesale rate (known as ‘avoided cost’) for that specific type of energy. Id. at para. 30. Therefore, a state can require utilities to purchase electricity generated from differentiated technologies (wind, solar, wave, etc.) and set the rate for purchases from each of these generators.
Photo credit: Flickr user KeithBurtis
The batteries and the solar cells themselves are something like shock absorbers for the grid. If drivers want to charge up their cars during peak periods on the grid, the charging station’s batteries will meet part of that demand so that the impact on the grid is milder. Likewise, the solar cells will chip in with some energy, lessening the load on the grid.
“If with new technologies we can control these resources on the distribution side, we can eliminate the need for potentially very expensive upgrades to the distribution system,” said James A. Ellis, the senior manager for transportation and infrastructure at the T.V.A.’s Technology Innovation Organization.
Although both produce electricity from the sun, there are significant differences between solar PV and concentrating solar thermal electricity generation. This FAQ provides answers to the most pressing questions about the two solar technologies. 1. Isn’t concentrating solar power cheaper? No. Five years ago the two technologies were relatively comparable, but in 2011 there’s no… Continue reading
While California lumbers forward with a high-cost, controversial solar strategy built around remote utility-scale solar thermal plants, with the hope that 10,000 megawatts can be built in ten years, Germany is demonstrating now that 10,000 megawatts of distributed PV can be added in only three years.
Updated 1/28/11: Talk about distributed generation! In Germany in 2009, nearly 1 in 5 solar PV systems went on residential rooftops and 60% was installed on small to medium residential or commercial buildings.
The absolute numbers are big, too. Germany installed nearly 9 gigawatts installed 3 gigawatts of solar in 2009, to reach 9 gigawatts of installed capacity.
We put out the new report, Maximizing Jobs From Clean Energy: Ontario’s ‘Buy Local’ Policy, this week and now you can watch an interview of my explanation of the report’s findings on Etopia News.