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SCN News

July 30, 2013

SCN convenes communities for state solar grant

The Rooftop Solar Challenge is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative. This initiative supports 22 regional teams collaborating with the goal of reducing barriers and costs for residential and small commercial rooftop solar systems. The Arizona Rooftop Solar Challenge (ARC) was a regional partnership of this overall initiative, concluding in June 2013, after running for 18 months. The Network was a part of this statewide partnership led by the Arizona Governor’s Office of Energy Policy, also involving the municipalities of Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff, as well as Clarkdale, Gila Bend, Goodyear, Payson, Prescott Valley, Surprise, and Tempe; and AZ SmartPower a nonprofit solar education organization. The coalition focused on developing a list of best practices for local communities with the goal of lowering balance of system (BOS) costs, the non-hardware costs associated with design, installation, permitting and financing, which remain high statewide.

The Network was heavily involved in stakeholder engagement, a key component of this process. SCN contributed by hosting regular Solar and Energy Efficiency Workgroup meetings, and by assisting with and promoting other grant engagement activities. SCN also helped facilitate a survey of over 40 municipalities and a wide range of solar installers on permitting and planning and zoning practices, providing the basis to identify these best practices.

Findings from these surveys allowed collaborating grant partners to develop a list of community recommendations and takeaways in the areas of permitting, financing, interconnection standards, and planning and zoning. Highlights are listed below:

Solar Permitting:

-Providing a detailed solar permitting checklist.

-Providing a solar-specific permit application form.

-Allowing for electronic submission of permit applications, drawings, and payments.

-Shorten the installation process by reducing the time taken to receive a permit.

Solar Financing:

-Developing innovative financing models to broaden the options for financing solar, including loans, leases, interest rate buy-downs, and backstops.

Interconnection Standards:

-Encouraging the local utility to provide an online application for interconnection.

-Recommending more streamlined interconnection standards for smaller systems than for larger systems.

Planning and Zoning

-The ARC team developed two planning and zoning models – one for desert communities and the other for high elevation communities, recommending that communities adopt the model language appropriate for their area to ensure solar access of buildings in Arizona.