Vermont fast tracks small solar projects

Slashing through administrative red tape, Vermont has passed a new amendment that does away with the traditional permitting process for small-scale solar installations.

The state of Vermont has enacted a registration process for small solar systems, effectively fast-tracking home projects.

Local solar permitting is often a costly and arduous endeavor that requires a mountain of paperwork and patience. The problem: that hurdle is often too cumbersome for the average homeowner, who may give up on bothering with the technology.

To fight that issue, Vermont's H.56 amendment -- signed into law by governor Peter Shumlin on May 25 -- establishes a straightforward registration process for solar systems rated 5 kilowatts or smaller.

The process replaces permitting and allows solar customers to install the system 10 days after completing a registration form and certificate of compliance with interconnection requirements.

After that, the utility has 10 days to raise any interconnection issues. If none are raised, a certificate of public good is granted and the project may be installed.

That's good news, because the permitting process can add some $2,500 to a solar installation, according to a recent study by solar panel installer SunRun.

By slashing through some of the administrative red tape, the solar industry could see the equivalent of a $1 billion stimulus over the next five years, it says.

Vermont already had a more cost-effective permitting process than most U.S. states, but by speeding the process further, it's putting pressure on other states in the union to simplify solar installations.

The new registration process will go into effect January 2012.

Photo: Renewable Energy Vermont

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