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Predictive monitoring 16 replacing coal 18 global Pv market update 20 biochar as backup? 26
1-GW Blythe Solar Project Breaks Ground
In Riverside County, Calif., construction began in June on the first phase of the Blythe Solar Power Project. Blythe consists of two 500-megawatt (MW) parabolic
trough concentrating solar power (CSP) plants. Secretary
of the Interior Ken Salazar, California Gov. Jerry Brown and
representatives from Solar Trust of America were present
for the groundbreaking ceremony. The U.S. Department of
Energy (DOE), provided a $2.1 billion loan guarantee to
help finance the project’s $2.8 billion price tag. That’s $2.80
per watt. At completion in 2014, Blythe is expected to be the
world’s largest solar project, of any technology.
City of Blythe Mayor Joseph DeConinck, California Gov.
Jerry Brown, Solar Trust of America Chairman/CeO uwe T.
Schmidt, u.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and 80th
District Assembly member V. Manuel Perez shoveled dirt at
the groundbreaking for the Blythe Solar Power Project.
so LAr trust oF AmericA
Reforming Permitting, One Jurisdiction at a Time
you can chalk up about 10 percent of the cost of a typical residen- tial solar array to paperwork. Breaking it down, non-module, balance-of-system costs account for 40 to 50 percent of the total
installation expense for a typical array. A quarter of that falls within
permitting, which spans inspections and fees necessary to satisfy grid-compliance, building, zoning and fire department codes. Averaged out,
it amounts to $2,516 for a 5-kilowatt (k W) photovoltaic (PV) rooftop
system — essentially a 50 cent per watt surcharge on solar.
These figures come from a January report issued by SunRun
( sunrunhome.com), a nationwide solar leasing company. Since its
release, the DOE and a number of state and local jurisdictions have
begun to take action.
In tandem with a makeover of its feed-in tariff, Vermont scrapped
its previous residential permitting process outright in May. Under
the new system, it’s a little more difficult to register a residential PV
system than it is to register a car. The Vermont Energy Act of 2011,
effective July 1, puts the onus on utilities. Small-scale solar customers
(smaller than 5-k W systems) are required to submit a registration
form and a grid-connection-compliance certificate, neither of which
carry fees. If the utility does not object within a 10-day period, the
customer can proceed with construction.
Around the same time, Colorado passed the much-needed Fair
Permit Act. Prior to the reform, Colorado’s permitting fee levels and
issuance times varied wildly. A 2011 Vote Solar Initiative report showed
that Colorado Springs or Denver residents could expect to pay less than
$250 and wait less than two days to certify a PV system. But in nearby
Erie, expenses could add up to over $2,000. And in Cherry Hills Village,
a month-long wait was the norm. Furthermore, only eight jurisdictions
in the state had fixed fees — there were arbitrarily set costs in all oth-
ers. With the Fair Permit Act in place, there is a $500 cap on residential
permit fees and a $1,000 cap on commercial system fees. Additionally,
local governments are prohibited from charging more than their actual
costs for systems greater than 2 M W. The legislation, which covers both
PV and solar thermal technologies, does not address issuance time.
The DOE is also in on the effort to reform permitting — in fact, it may
have provided the impetus by requesting granular data on soft solar costs,
spurring the SunRun report. In June, DOE announced $27.5 million in
funding to streamline and digitize permitting and installations. The fund-
ing falls under the umbrella of the SunShot Initiative, tasked with bringing
solar to “grid parity” by 2020. SunShot Director Ramamoorthy Ramesh
sees Vermont and Colorado, along with cities such as San Diego, as leaders
that will provide a blueprint for hundreds of other jurisdictions around the
country. “To put it in a very euphemistic way, the [permitting] evolution is
beginning,” Ramesh said. “We would like to bring the cost structure and the
time structure down by a significant amount — by about 70 to 75 percent.
The [SunShot] team has put in very, very aggressive milestones.”
To help achieve these reductions, the DOE set aside $15 million to
encourage innovation in IT systems, local zoning and building codes
and regulations. Another $12.5 million was allocated for a competitive
challenge for cities and counties, called the Rooftop Solar Challenge
( eere.energy.gov/solarchallenge). Award winners were not available
at press time. —MIkE kOSHMRL
10 September/October 2011 SOLAR TODA Y solartoday.org
Copyright © 2011 by the American Solar Energy Society Inc. All rights reserved.