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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Goshen, Ind., achieved the SolSmart Gold designation and installed 103 watts of solar PV per capita, placing it ahead of places like Sacramento, Denver and San Francisco in 2017. The big hit here was organizing a Solarize Northern Indiana group-buy to bring down both grid-connected and off-grid system costs. The average cost of an array under Solarize is $2.53 per watt for a basic 5-kW system, compared to about $2.80 per watt on the open market, according to a report by Solarize. (Note: Indiana halted all of this momentum at the state level by ending net metering completely.) "This demonstrated a clear need for training, education and outreach for local officials," Barnes notes. In Massachusetts and New York, EQ encountered jurisdictions that did not have an inspector on staff at all, contracting out its inspections instead, which added time. Weiner recalls one permit pulling experi- ence in Rohnert Park, Calif., that involved a city building official who was also the city electrical inspector, plumbing inspector, assistant deputy sheriff and part-time handyman. Needless to say, that took a while too. "Things have probably changed over there, but the lesson here is that there are many jurisdictions in the U.S. where solar — and now energy storage — is new, and building inspectors are just getting up to speed on best practices. Rather than com- plain, offer to help," he says. "Not only can you speed up your plans, but you'll also make a friend with someone who can help streamline your permits." Ease the pain The Department of Energy began fund- ing the SolSmart program in 2015 to help local communities address solar soft costs. One focus area of the program, which is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association, is to reduce friction throughout the solar permitting process. Jurisdictions interested in growing their solar market can consult the checklist of best practices set by SolSmart to achieve one of three levels of certification. In the two years since, SolSmart adoption is ahead of its target (currently at 211 municipalities and counties designated in 37 states with the end goal originally being 300). The core issue from the SolSmart team's vantage point, according to Zach Greene, program director at The Solar Foundation, is the lack of transparency, as many jurisdic- tions literally no information on what devel- opers need to submit. SOLARBUILDERMAG.COM | 27 BUYING POWER

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