The Energy Department announced final rules for a prize competition to make it faster, cheaper, and easier for Americans to install solar energy systems and spur solar deployment nationwide. The SunShot Prize: Race to 7-Day Solar competition challenges innovators around the country to develop solutions to reduce the time and processes involved in installing solar energy systems, decreasing costs and improving customer experience so more Americans can choose solar energy to meet their electricity needs.
The rate of solar energy installations across the U.S. has soared over the past few years, reaching more than 17 gigawatts of installed capacity—enough to power the equivalent of more than 3.5 million average American homes. Despite tremendous gains in deployment and steady cost reductions for solar technologies, the process to install a solar energy system remains time-consuming and complex due to high non-hardware "soft costs," which currently make up more than half the cost of a solar energy system.
Today, the time it takes to complete even a small residential photovoltaic project can vary widely—anywhere from a few days to six months. On average, each additional day it takes to connect a new PV system represents about $4 million of lost electricity generation at America's expected 2015 deployment levels. The Race to 7-Day Solar competition specifically addresses this issue and aims to foster greater collaboration between local governments, businesses, nonprofits, utilities, and communities. The official rules released today create an opportunity for these groups to form teams and work together to develop innovative solutions to increase process certainty and slash the time it takes to permit, install, inspect, and connect both small and large photovoltaic (PV) systems to the electric grid.
Eligible teams will compete in two contests over 18 months to implement their creative solutions to cut the permit-to-plug-in time toward seven days for small PV systems up to 100 kilowatts or seven weeks for large PV systems up to 1 megawatt. During this period, the teams will demonstrate their innovations at-scale by deploying a minimum of 10 megawatts for the small system contest or 15 megawatts for the large system contest. Read the prize competition rules and eligibility requirements on the competition website.