The scorecards, produced by the Yale Data-Driven Environmental Solutions Group (Data-Driven Yale), reveal how municipalities stack up in terms of installed solar capacity, permitting processes, community engagement, and information availability.
For municipal governments, growth in residential solar PV adoption means staff will devote more time to solar permits and inspections. The scorecards demonstrate how municipalities can improve efficiency and streamline their processes in response to demand.
“By showing the wide range of practices and costs for permitting solar,” said Danny Macri, Research Fellow with Data-Driven Yale, “we acknowledge the high performers and show other municipalities that if towns like them are able to streamline permitting and offer reasonable fees they may be able to do so as well.”
Data-Driven Yale is an interdisciplinary research group that uses data analytics to create solutions to the world’s environmental challenges. The group includes policy experts, data scientists, visual designers, and interactive programmers from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale-NUS College in Singapore.
In Connecticut, the state provides incentives for residential solar PV to increase access to renewable energy and achieve up to 300 megawatts of deployed solar in the state by 2022. The new scorecards illustrate which municipalities are leaders in helping the state meet this target. Out of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities, Coventry, Ashford, Mansfield, Simsbury and Windsor lead the state in municipal support for residential solar PV.
In some communities, like West Haven and New Britain, an installer can get a solar permit the same day. While in others it can take more than 30 days. The average permit fee for a 7.9-kilowatt system ranges from $0 in some municipalities to as high as $1,100 in others.
Municipal permitting processes conform to state requirements, yet each town does things a little differently.
“This scoring system will hopefully inspire municipalities to update their local permit process to today’s standard best practices,” said Michael Trahan, executive director of solar industry group SolarConnecticut. “The scorecard also gives solar installers a sense of where it is cheapest to install solar in Connecticut, and for property owners thinking about installing solar to compare their town’s policies on solar to others.”
Solar PV is the fastest growing clean energy sector in the United States, and Connecticut residents have been eager to capitalize on the benefits. Since 2012 residential solar project volume has, on average, doubled every year. In 2015 alone, 8,600 homeowners statewide decided to install solar.
When people consider the costs associated with solar technology they often think of the costs of the actual hardware. The scorecards shed light on the areas where municipalities affect transaction costs, which are significant, and influence solar uptake. These localized “soft costs” — which include the cost of permitting, labor, and customer acquisition — accounted for 46 percent of the total cost of solar in Connecticut in 2015.
The scorecards were sent to each town’s Chief Elected Official and Building Department and are available at www.ctsolarscoreboard.com.
The scorecards were produced by Data Driven Yale with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge II and the Connecticut Green Bank.