Why is Solar less expensive to install outside the U.S.?
Many Americans like the idea of solar but aren’t too sure if it’s a good investment. After all, everyone wants to save the planet, but only if they are saving money in the process. Although the cost of going solar has been steadily dropping for as long as it’s been around, some things stand in the way of an alternative to using the utility company that saves consumers money along the way.
After this last election
It seems everyone was talking about going green. The new administration had made many promises, and everyone has been wondering how they intend to achieve these lofty goals. After all, solar is primarily made in China, and we’re a long way away from producing panels locally for the price they would have to be competitive. Although some creative taxations and tariffs can significantly affect the market overall, we are far from producing panels locally.
However, there are some things that we can do as a nation to decrease the price across the board dramatically.
Australia has somehow managed to install residential solar panels for a fraction of the cost the US market requires. Some of that has to do with the aggressive tax incentives in Australia, but that isn’t the whole story.Australia’s cheaper solar installs have had a dramatic effect on the marketplace. They have led to Australia having “a higher adoption rate of rooftop solar than any other country in the world,” This means “installing the same size system in Australia costs one-third of the price of the same system in the US,” according to news.energysage.com. That is a dramatic difference and would undoubtedly push the marketplace to adopt solar at a high-speed rate. So what gives? Why is it so much cheaper down under? Well, it’s pretty simple. According to news.energysage.com, it’s just a matter of reducing “soft costs.” Although it sounds trivial, the soft costs in the US add up to a lot, and by ”simplifying the permitting requirements for solar installations and hiring dedicated solar inspectors ‘,the Australian government has effectively sliced the cost of going solar by a wide margin. The US should take note, and if we have aspirations of going green, we need to use techniques that have been proven.
We currently have an utterly unorganized process that varies from state to state but also often varies from city to city. Even certain counties have their operations.
Think of it like this. If you decide to open a mechanic or a tire store in the US, you would want to be able to predict every type of car that you might encounter, and then also prepare for different weather and be sure to stock your store accordingly. Now, of course, you would want to comply with all the latest industry standards and be sure the work you’re doing will keep each customer happy and be compliant with all regulations. For the most part, you would want to follow the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence or ASE. If you can do that, you should have an excellent little business.
Now contrast that to the hurdles that face solar installers:
First of all, you will want to be up to speed on the current building codes and specifically theNFPA 70, NationalElectrical Code(NEC).The NEC is revised every three years using public input and commentary. This keeps everyone safe and keeps the riff-raff to a minimum. However, you will want to install these systems at each residence, which means in a relatively small service area, you might need to prepare for 10-20 different jurisdictions, which means differences in:
The price of permits
The technical process of applying for and paying for said permit
The process of calling in said inspection
The necessity of providing a ladder for the inspector
Knowing which specific codes are adopted
Having knowledge of which specific codes will be enforced
Knowing engineering firm is most likely to match up with said requirements for each jurisdiction
Having knowledge about the approximate lead time required to have a permit approved in each specific jurisdiction
Now, that is required to ensure companies are not slapping up panels with no regard to safety and potentially causing problems or even fires.
But, all of this stuff forms a nice group of little expenses that has killed many good companies, with all the best intentions, even before they were able to see their visions come to fruition. We call this soft costs. This all adds up to unrealistic overhead expenses, and eventually gets passed on to the consumer.
There is a lot of people who sees this as low-hanging fruit. There are many costs associated with going solar that are simply not negotiable. The cost of the panels themselves is pretty well set. Much of these soft costs however, could be lowered across the board for the entire nation. They could be dramatically reduced, without sacrificing quality or safety, through modern technology!
Some kid playing video games just a few years ago, holds the key to the modern green energy revolution! A simple app might be able to connect the dots, and simultaneously streamline the entire permitting/city inspection process with a simple app,
Although that sounds like a very simple idea, it’s actually extremely complex. Luckily, some highly motivated, and very intelligent individuals are already working on this. Although the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a new target to cut the cost of solar energy by 60% within the next ten years. The key to making that happen might lie in technology that is already being rapidly adopted. The most promising technology in this field has been around since 2018. It has had to fight its way through the bureaucracy, that we call the government. SolarAPP+ is now emerging as the obvious solution to such a complicated problem.
According to Solar Power World Online
“Lowering the cost of solar energy is essential to accelerating deployment”, and with new technologies allowing the deployment to increase, “the country will need to add hundreds of gigawatts of solar energy to the grid at a pace as much as five-times faster than current installation rates.” Now, those are some very lofty goals, and there are many different opinions on the best way to make all that happen.
The one thing everyone seems to agree on though, is technology holds the key, and SolarAPP+ is likely the most important advancement in the race to get the costs down.
PV magazine has followed this emerging technology and stated “SolarAPP was proposed in 2018 by the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Solar Foundation to reduce the “soft costs” of residential solar”
They believe this will be the best way to drop prices across the entire nation. With all the money getting pushed around in Washington, let’s hope the end result is affordable solar. The energy.gov website states.
“Solar permitting processes vary widely across the country, with some customers waiting weeks to months to get approval and solar installers tend to avoid working in areas with difficult permit processes. SolarAPP+ solves this problem by providing solar contractors nationwide with a standardized, automated permitting process for residential installations. SolarAPP+ reviews solar project applications for building code compliance and instantly approves permits that meet the right specifications.”