DATE: December 15, 2011
CONTACT: Linda Ross, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Professional Standards
Broward County has received a $646,367 grant to help reduce the cost and wait time associated with the installation of photovoltaic (PV), or rooftop solar systems, by residents and businesses.
The Rooftop Solar Challenge grant is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) $12 million SunShot Initiative, the goal of which is to jumpstart the expansion of solar energy by streamlining the application, permitting and installation processes for PV systems.
Broward County was the only government or organization in Florida to receive funds from the program, and one of only 22 in the nation. The award application was the result of a collaborative effort between the Broward County Environmental Protection and Growth Management Department and the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Professional Standards.
“The goal is to provide incentives to those who are willing to invest in solar energy now for the economic and environmental benefits that will come in the future,” said Broward County Vice Mayor Kristin Jacobs. “A uniform process that is easy and efficient will remove the roadblocks that often discourage home and business owners from using solar energy.”
Fourteen municipalities will partner with Broward County on the grant, including Coconut Creek, Dania Beach, Davie, Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Hillsboro Beach, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Miramar, North Lauderdale, Oakland Park, Pompano Beach, Sunrise and Tamarac. In addition, the collaborative is supported by an array of state and local organizations, including FPL; the Broward County Board of Rules and Appeals, School Board and League of Cities; and the Florida Municipal Electric Association, State Office of Energy, and Florida Solar Energy Center.
Although residents of the “Sunshine State” should be able to easily generate power from PV systems, Florida has lagged behind other states in adopting the energy saving technology. But solar solutions are becoming more popular as business and homeowners realize the benefits of retrofitting for increased energy efficiency.
According to the DOE, the non-hardware costs associated with permitting, installing, designing and maintaining PV systems represent approximately 40 percent of the total cost of PV systems. Currently, application and permit approval processes vary from city to city. Broward County Permitting, Licensing and Consumer Protection will use the grant to standardize and streamline those processes across multiple jurisdictions.
A streamlined online application system with standardized fees, single inspection protocol, and uniform interconnection to utility systems is considered a key incentive for contractors, homeowners and businesses who want to install the energy-saving systems. The grant also includes education and advocacy components. Other incentives may include potential financing options and consideration of more favorable local codes and ordinances.
This grant award represents the first of three "cooperative" phases with DOE. With the successful completion of Phase 1, Broward County will be eligible to receive an additional $2 million dollars to assist in developing similar programs regionally and ultimately, statewide.
The Rooftop Solar Challenge is expected to save participating governments millions of dollars, generate additional millions in tax revenue, and stimulate the local economy. But the homeowner will be the real winner as barriers and costs to installing solar are reduced.