Energy Department energizes PV installers with $10 million Race to the Rooftop

Installers racing to the rooftop to install solarLate last week the US Department of Energy (DOE) launched the newest part of its SunShot Initiative, Race to the Rooftop, a $10 million cash reward for teams to reduce the non-hardware costs of small solar.

Under the competition the first three teams that can reduce non-hardware costs of solar to $1 per watt for homes and businesses on a repetitive basis will receive cash rewards.  “The average price for soft costs for residential and small commercial systems is about $3 per watt,” said DOE spokesperson Niketa Kumar. Such costs include permitting, licensing, interconnection and other costs not directly associated with the solar panels and other parts of the array. “The SunShot Prize competition aims to inspire innovative and sustainable business practices that reduce these soft costs to $1 per watt. Achieving this target will bring the SunShot goal of 60 cents per watt for residential system soft costs within reach by the end of the decade,” she said.

The competition will require more than just installers reducing their own soft costs of solar, it will likely require teams working together. “The competition is open to U.S. teams who work collaboratively to meet these aggressive cost goals,” Kumar said. “Examples of organizations that may be part of a team include, but are not limited to, solar developers, installers, local and state governments, electric utilities, code officials, municipal planners, nonprofit groups, financial institutions, institutions of higher education, associations and other nonprofit organizations,” she said.

“After a team registers, the team must select a subset of the areas in which it operates to consider as its competition performance region,” Kumar said. “The minimum component of the performance region is a county or county-equivalent, such as a city, parish or borough. All installations within selected counties or county-equivalents must be submitted as part of the submission package.”

The race consists of two phases. In the first phase, teams must successfully deploy 5,000 small-scale rooftop PV systems with non-hardware costs averaging $1 per watt, DOE said. In the second phase, winning teams, must install 1,000 qualifying systems. The first-place winner will receive $7 million, second place, $2 million, and third, $1 million for achieving the goals. 

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