Vermont has enacted a first-in-the-nation registration process for small solar-power systems, providing a national model for mitigating costly local solar permitting.
Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the Vermont Energy Act Fiscal Note into law on May 25. It establishes a simple registration, which replaces permitting process for systems 5 kilowatts (kW) and smaller, that allows solar-power customers to install the system 10 days after completing a registration form and certificate of compliance with interconnection requirements. The utility has 10 days to raise any interconnection issues. Otherwise, a Certificate of Public Good is granted, and the project may be installed.
A recent study by SunRun found that permitting adds an average cost of $2,500 to each solar installation and that streamlining the often cumbersome process would provide a $1 billion stimulus to the solar industry over the next five years.
The report finds that the additional installation cost—$0.50 per watt—is due to wide permitting variations not connected to safety, excessive fees and an unnecessarily slow process. The report cites that Germany has a 40 percent installation price advantage over the United States. Vermont already has a much more cost-effective, free statewide permitting process than most states.
“Cutting unnecessary red tape and costly permitting for small renewables should be a national priority. It will help us meet our energy needs and make domestic solar competitive worldwide,” said David Blittersdorf, president and CEO of AllEarth Renewables, manufacturer and installer of the AllSun Tracker.
The registration process will go into effect January 2012.
Vermont’s legislation also expands the state’s successful net metering program by establishing a statewide solar customer benefit, which gives solar a minimum value of $0.20, increasing the allowable size of net metering projects from 250 kW to 500 kW, increasing the per utility net metering cap from 2 percent to 4 percent and improving group net metering billing.