Solar Friendly Communities’ free solar roadmap workshops on CO’s Front Range

Solar being installed on a houseSolar Friendly Communities, a coalition of Denver, Fort Collins, Golden, Boulder County, the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) have joined to help bring down the cost of installing solar in Colorado by streamlining permitting and inspection.

The project is supported by a SunShot Initiative grant as one of the 22 national Rooftop Solar Challenge teams. The nearly $500,000 grant is aimed at reducing permitting and interconnection costs by 25 percent through online tools, hands-on support and quantifiable progress assessments, according to the Department of Energy.

The problem is local permitting and inspection processes add about $2,500 to the cost of each residential system, according to some recent reports. In addition, the permitting requirements vary dramatically across states like Colorado. For instance, the coalition said Colorado has more than 200 municipalities, 64 counties and 65 utilities, each with their own permitting and inspection processes.

The workshops, being held in Centennial, on Sept. 18; Denver, on Sept. 19 and Boulder on Sept. 20, mark the introduction of the coalition’s “12 Best Practices: A Roadmap to a Solar Friendly Community”. “The workshops are primarily intended for municipal and county officials as many of the best practices we recommend involved local permitting, inspection and policy issues,” said Rebecca Cantwell, senior program director for Solar Friendly Communities. “But the workshops are open to all and we expect more than 60 attendees including community members, business leaders, solar installers and municipal leaders.”

The coalition launched in February, 2012 and this represents a step forward in its goals to lower costs. “We have been working with our core partner communities of Denver, Boulder County, Fort Collins and Golden since February and held in-depth workshops with each community in May and June to review their current practices and explore opportunities for streamlining,” Cantwell said. Chief building and key permitting officials from each jurisdiction participated. “We have been working with them individually on a variety of topics identified in the workshops since then,” she said.

Since the initial meetings, the campaign has been doing outreach in the communities. “We have been working with a solar industry group and other stakeholders to understand what steps would be most helpful in helping them overcome barriers to solar deployment,” Cantwell said. The outreach and earlier meetings, as well as discussions with representatives of local governments, industry, and other stakeholders allowed them to create the roadmap. “Dozens of stakeholders were involved in many different conversations. The product of these months of work will be explained and presented at the workshops,” she said.

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