By Minh Le
In the summer of 1969, the Apollo 11 space flight sent three American astronauts to the moon and back in roughly a week.
Nearly 50 years later, it should be possible to complete a simple project — like connecting a solar photovoltaic or PV energy system to the grid — in the same amount of time. However, in many jurisdictions across the country, the permit-to-plug-in process — the process to permit, install, inspect and grid-interconnect PV systems — remains arduous and time-consuming. In some locations, homeowners wait six months or more to complete this process — making the experience of going solar frustrating and expensive for consumers.
This week, the Energy Department launched the SunShot Prize: Race to 7-Day Solar to motivate communities, solar companies and electric utilities to work together to drastically cut down the time and processes required to go solar and quickly bring more solar power online.
Across the U.S., Americans are choosing solar to power their daily lives, but long delays to connect the systems to the grid decrease the value for consumers, businesses and utilities. To put it in perspective, if every solar project deployed in the U.S. this year was forced to wait one extra day before connecting to the grid, it would result in a loss of $4 million worth of electricity. So while no one organization can single-handedly reduce the permit-to-plug-in time, the Race to 7-Day Solar competition aims to create collaboration between local governments, businesses, solar companies, nonprofits, utilities and communities to create certainty and efficiency in the process.
Beginning this September, 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. Their work will be judged on the quantity of projects installed, the speed at which they are completed and the ease by which they can be replicated.
Going solar doesn’t have to be a difficult and time-intensive process. If our country can get three men to the moon and back in seven days, it’s entirely possible to bring 7-Day Solar to everyone in the United States. Build your team and compete to win the SunShot Prize: Race to 7-Day Solar.
Learn how to participate on the SunShot 7-Day Solar webpage.
The author is the Director, Solar Energy Technologies Office at the US Department of Energy. Click here to go to the original