Solar Soft Costs: How does your town compare?




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Maybe you have heard the cry for Solar Freedom Now! And you are wondering-what is all the fuss about? Did you know that it costs almost twice as much to install solar in the USA as Germany? Did you know the difference is mainly “soft costs,” like permits, interconnection fees, and other paper work? According to a recent report by SunRun, permitting and inspection add about $2,500 to the cost of a residential solar system.

Did you also know that there is a movement afoot to bring down these costs to help make solar more affordable for all? Denver was recently recognized as the first Solar Friendly Community. Denver’s permitting office can issue a permit at the counter in 15 minutes and for $50, while it can take other cities up to 20 days and cost hundreds of dollars. Denver also offers a special low-interest loan for solar systems to residents that participate in the Denver Energy Challenge and reduce energy use in their home by 15%. The city helped organize a 20% solar group discount offered to 150,000 city, state, and federal employees in Colorado. On January 28th, Aurora, Colorado was the second city to win the Solar Friendly Community designation.


Solar Friendly Communities’ 12 Best Practices: A Roadmap to a Solar Friendly Community offers local communities a menu of options and an easy-to-follow roadmap to make progress in reducing soft costs. Use the wheel to see how your community is doing and email the program for more info!

Click on the road map from Solar Friendly Communities to grade your town or county.

Here are some fantastic resources on solar soft costs! Tell us what you think! Send us your stories and experiences with solar permitting to

DOE’s SunShot Initiative
The Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative has many resources on efforts to drive down the cost of solar energy. Go!
Cutting the Price of Solar
Forbes Magazine did an interesting article on cutting solar costs. Go!
ICLEI offers “Local Governments for Sustainability” webinars on reducing barriers to solar for local governments. Go!

California Solar Permitting  

A guidebook to help local governments in California reform and streamline their permitting process. Go!
Solar 3.0! Solar 3.0 initiative is a metrics-driven program that seeks to reduce solar PV soft costs by 50% in targeted communities by 2014. Go!
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council has produced a report on permitting rooftop solar systems. Go!


Grade your town and tell us how your city or state measures up! We want to hear how towns across the country are doing. Submit your grades in the comment section below.


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