Solar Builder

SEP-OCT 2018

Solar Builder focuses on the installation/construction of solar PV systems. We cover the latest PV technology (modules, mounting, inverters, storage, BOS) and equip installers/contractors with tips and tools to make informed purchasing decisions.

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SOLARBUILDERMAG.COM | 25 How outdated local processes unintentionally stifle the true solar market By Chris Crowell SHADOW COSTS W hile PV technology has made considerable gains in terms of cost reduction and increased efficiency over the last decade, many authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) around the coun- try have not. Government often gets credit for growing the solar market through subsidies, but this ignores regulatory hurdles in the way of project completion such as old timey zoning laws, overly burdensome permitting practices and time-consuming interconnection policies. All of that sticky red tape can stif le PV growth. Certain AHJs are deemed so cumbersome, or confusing, that solar installers avoid them completely — regard- less of the true long-term value of solar as a generating asset to a customer and community. We think it's worth asking, of the 10,000 jurisdictions out there, how many are not worth the effort, and how many viable solar projects are lost as a result? Soft cost hype According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's PV System Cost Benchmark Study in 2017, from 2010 to 2017 there was a 61 percent reduction in the installed cost for residential PV systems, 61 percent of which is attributed to hardware costs and 21 percent attributed to non-hardware "soft" costs. From 2016 to 2017, there was a 6 percent reduction in installed system costs — about half of which is a reduction in module factory gate price. For residential solar PV, hardware costs account for only 0.89 cents per watt of a 2.8 cent per watt system cost total. A full two-thirds of the cost of a resi- dential solar installation are soft costs, a majority of which are unavoidable business operating expenses, such as customer acquisition (0.34 cents per watt) and overhead (0.31 cents per watt). Permitting, inspection and interconnection (PII) only made up 0.10 cents per watt, which seems kind of harmless in the bar graph relative to the non-hardware costs benchmarked in NREL's study. But what is included in the 0.10 per watt PII cost benchmark?

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