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Local Fees and Regulations Spank Solar in the US: Inverse of Germany

“Consider thousands of local processes, fees and timelines,” says Rob Cahill, manager of business development for solar financier SunRun, pointing out that installing solar panels is still treated by city authorities like a complex home renovation. “It’s not surprising that a significant amount of (solar’s cost) is embedded in a local regulatory morass,” he says. Cahill authored a recent report for his firm showing local government fees and processing can add an average of $2,516 to a residential rooftop solar installation—about 33 percent of what the homeowner would spend on solar panels. These so-called soft costs are not only expensive for the industry, says Matthew Feinstein, solar research analyst at Lux Research. but hurt US competitiveness. "Soft costs in Germany are half that in the US, it's incredible," he says. Current installed costs for solar photovoltaic, PV, systems-the typical flat solar panels seen on rooftops-is $5.50/watt in the U.S., but $3.50/watt in Germany.

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