Report: Building codes slow home solar in U.S.

aaWildly ranging utility and state solar incentives are part of the reason for what can be radical differences in home solar costs across different states and even across different counties and cities within the same state in the U.S.

Another reason might be your local building codes, according to a new White Paper report released by SunRun, one of the nation’s largest solar companies.

The report, “The Impact of Local Permitting on the Cost of Solar Power,” reveals that inconsistent local solar permitting and inspection processes add an average of over $2,500 per home installation. A direct response to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) request for granular data on non-equipment solar costs, the report specifies how the DOE can take immediate action to solve local permitting problems and reduce unnecessary costs.

“Our research identifies inconsistencies in local permitting as one of the most critical roadblocks to a sustainable, subsidy-free solar industry,” said SunRun CEO and Co-founder Edward Fenster. “To tackle this challenge head-on, the DOE can use existing guidelines it has already funded to standardize local permitting and deliver the equivalent of a new $1 billion solar subsidy over five years.”

Local permitting red tape keeps solar off of millions of American homes and businesses and seriously jeopardizes our ability to be competitive with entrenched fossil fuels.
— Rhone Resch, president and CEO of Solar Energy Industries Association

In the report, solar installers nationwide indicate repeatedly that local permitting is the most stubborn cost they face, preventing them from making solar affordable for millions of Americans. By comparison, countries such as Germany have simpler processes that keep solar installation costs 40 percent lower than in the United States.

Germany reports about one million new home solar power installations in the past two years alone, whereas the total number of homes ever to go solar in the United States has just broken 120,000. SunRun’s report recommends the DOE lead a new Residential Solar Permitting Initiative, starting with high-volume cities that impact more than 50 percent of the solar market. The recommendations include a contest with grant rewards for cities that make the most effective and comprehensive improvements.

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“Local permitting red tape keeps solar off of millions of American homes and businesses and seriously jeopardizes our ability to be competitive with entrenched fossil fuels,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “Policymakers need to recognize that these additional costs put an undue burden on new, clean technologies like solar that are trying to create jobs in the U.S.”

Endorsements for SunRun’s report underscore the industry’s sense of urgency when it comes to standardizing the permitting process. A coalition of 22 leading installers from across the country endorses this paper, as well as industry organizations such as The Sierra Club, SolarTech, and Vote Solar. The report is currently under review with the DOE and available at

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