As part of the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative, the department recently announced $12 million in new funding aimed at streamlining and standardizing local permitting, zoning, metering, and connection processes and improving finance options to lower costs for residential and small commercial rooftop solar systems. This funding will help support innovative, locally driven projects that will make it easier for solar energy businesses to operate efficiently and pass their savings on to customers, while creating new jobs and business opportunities across the country.

This funding opportunity, called Rooftop Solar Challenge II, is part of a broader Energy Department effort to spur solar power deployment by making it easier, faster, and cheaper to finance and install solar energy systems. The funding builds on the success of the Rooftop Solar Challenge, announced in June 2011. Through that first round, 22 regional teams have worked to dramatically reduce the non-hardware or soft costs of solar, including standardizing installation and permitting fees across multiple jurisdictions, establishing group purchasing discounts, and expanding online permitting.

The new funding also focuses on scaling up the most effective approaches while driving new innovations that further reduce permitting, installation, and interconnection costs and time. This funding will support 2.5-year projects led by approximately 10 teams that have already demonstrated local successes in reducing the soft costs of solar and have developed a promising plan to rapidly deploy effective techniques, tools, and standards at a larger scale. The selected teams, which may include teams selected in the first round, will be evaluated throughout the 2.5-year project period using solar market maturity models developed by the Department's SunShot Initiative. Click here to read the full funding opportunity announcement.