8 Businesses Granted $12 Million to Help 150 Million Americans Go Solar
Eight companies, universities and nonprofits have been challenged—and awarded grants—to make it easier for nearly 150 million Americans to go solar.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $12 million in grants today to the organizations as part of the second round of the Rooftop Solar Challenge. The recipients are: Broward County in Florida, California Center for Sustainable Energy, City University of New York, Clean Energy States Alliance, Iowa Economic Development Authority, Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), Optony Inc. and the Washington State Department of Commerce.
The Rooftop Solar Challenge, in its second year, aims to "reduce the cost of rooftop solar energy systems through improved permitting, financing, zoning, net metering, and interconnection processes for residential and small commercial photovoltaic (PV) installations," according to the DOE. Each awardee has proven the ability to cut the red tape in getting more commercial and residential solar systems in their region. Now, the challenge is for each winner to help eight "teams" across the country that have the potential for greater solar expansion.
“Today, solar modules cost about one percent of what they did 35 years ago, and permitting and interconnection are an increasingly large portion of overall solar system costs," DOE secretary Ernest Moniz said. "Through the Rooftop Solar Challenge, the Energy Department is helping to make the deployment of solar power in communities across the country faster, easier and cheaper–saving money and time for local governments, homeowners and businesses.”
The eight teams announced today will help further expand the reach of innovative strategies that are making it easier, faster and cheaper for more homeowners and businesses to finance and install solar systems, according to the DOE. These awardees will develop and replicate creative solutions that help standardize complicated permitting and interconnection processes that often vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; facilitate easy, cheaper bulk purchasing; and support user-friendly, fast online applications.
Here are three of the eight grant awardees that can impact the most people, according to the DOE:
- Population Impact: 60 million
- Amount: $1,199,598
- Location: California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Hawaii, Texas, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York
- Partners: Solar Electric Power Association, Strategic Energy Innovations, US Photovoltaic Manufacturers Consortium, Rocky Mountain Institute, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Northern Virginia Regional Commission and Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board
- Highlights: The American Solar Transformation Initiative will use an innovative online Solar Roadmap platform and hands-on engagement to assist more than 400 jurisdictions where solar potential is abundant, but resources and information are scarce. The project will improve permitting processes, establish solar friendly planning and zoning guidelines, streamline the interconnection process, expand financing options, and ultimately develop strong solar markets across the country.
California Center for Sustainable Energy
- Population Impact: 37 million
- Amount: $1,299,522
- Location: California
- Partners: California Governor's Office of Planning and Research, Energy Policy Initiatives Center at University of San Diego, Contra Costa Economic Development Authority, Optony, Energy Solutions, Southern California Regional Energy Network and local jurisdictions
- Highlights: The Golden State Solar Impact project will transform California's solar market by making permitting and interconnection processes more uniform, rapid and transparent across the state. The project will implement a standardized permitting process and develop tools such as a statewide interconnection and data portal to dramatically reduce soft costs in California.
Clean Energy States Alliance
- Population Impact: 13 million
- Amount: $1,500,000
- Location: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont
- Partners: Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA), Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (MA-DOER), New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning (NH-OEP), Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (RI-OER), Vermont Public Service Department (VT-PSD), and local jurisdictions
- Highlights: The New England Solar Cost-Reduction Partnership will build a thriving regional solar market by: increasing coordination across Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont; refining and deploying innovations developed in Connecticut and Massachusetts during Rooftop Solar Challenge I; and more widely implementing best practices across the region, including online permitting and group purchasing programs.
The DOE awarded the representatives of 22 regional teams during the first round of the Challenge in 2012 to reduce the soft costs of solar installation. The agency said those efforts helped cut permitting time by 40 percent while reducing fees by more than 10 percent making it faster and easier for more than 47 million Americans to install solar systems. The representatives created group purchasing programs to drive down costs and streamlined the permit process by instituting online systems in communities that lacked them.
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After sustained declines in the number of COVID-19 cases over recent months, restrictions are starting to ease across the United States. Numbers of new cases are falling or stable at low numbers in some states, but they are surging in many others. Overall, the U.S. is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of new cases a day, and by late June, had surpassed the peak rate of spread in early April.
Seven day rolling average of number of people confirmed to have COVID-19, per day (not including today). This chart gets updated once per day with data by Johns Hopkins. Johns Hopkins university doesn't provide reliable data for March 12 and March 13. Johns Hopkins CSSE Get the data
To Have a Second Wave, the First Wave Needs to End.<p>A wave of an infection describes a large rise and fall in the number of cases. There isn't a precise epidemiological definition of when a wave begins or ends.</p><p>But with talk of a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/27/new-covid-19-clusters-across-world-spark-fear-of-second-wave" target="_blank">second wave in the news</a>, as an <a href="https://www.american.edu/cas/faculty/mhawkins.cfm" target="_blank">epidemiologist and public health researcher</a>, I think there are two necessary factors that must be met before we can colloquially declare a second wave.</p><p>First, the virus would have to be controlled and transmission brought down to a very low level. That would be the end of the first wave. Then, the virus would need to reappear and result in a large increase in cases and hospitalizations.</p><p>Many countries in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0908-8" target="_blank">Europe and Asia have successfully ended the first wave</a>. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/08/new-zealand-abandons-covid-19-restrictions-after-nation-declared-no-cases" target="_blank">New Zealand</a> and <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/06/08/how-iceland-beat-the-coronavirus" target="_blank">Iceland</a> have also made it through their first waves and are now essentially coronavirus-free, with very low levels of community transmission and only a handful of active cases currently.</p>
Different States, Different Trends<p>Looking at U.S. numbers as a whole hides what is really going on. Different states are in <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html" target="_blank">vastly different situations right now</a> and when you look at states individually, four major categories emerge.</p><ol><li>Places where the first wave is ending: States in the Northeast and a few scattered elsewhere experienced large initial spikes but were able to mostly contain the virus and substantially brought down new infections. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/new-york-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">New York</a> is a good example of this.</li><li>Places still in the first wave: Several states in the South and West – see <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/texas-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Texas</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/california-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">California</a> – had some cases early on, but are now seeing massive surges with no sign of slowing down.</li><li>Places in between: Many states were hit early in the first wave, managed to slow it down, but are either at a plateau – like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/north-dakota-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">North Dakota</a> – or are now seeing steep increases – like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/oklahoma-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Oklahoma</a>.</li><li>Places experiencing local second waves: Looking only at a state level, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/hawaii-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Hawaii</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/montana-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Montana</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/alaska-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Alaska</a> could be said to be experiencing second waves. Each state experienced relatively small initial outbreaks and was able to reduce spread to single digits of daily new confirmed cases, but are now all seeing spikes again.</li></ol><p>The trends aren't surprising based on how states have been dealing with reopening. The virus will go wherever there are susceptible people and until the U.S. stops community spread across the entire country, the first wave isn't over.</p>
What Could a Second Wave Look Like?<p>It is possible – though at this point it seems unlikely – that the U.S. could control the virus before a vaccine is developed. If that happens, it would be time to start thinking about a second wave. The question of what it might look like depends in large part on everyone's actions.</p><p>The <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1086%2F592454" target="_blank">1918 flu pandemic</a> was characterized by a mild first wave in the winter of 1917-1918 that went away in summer. After restrictions were lifted, people very quickly went back to pre-pandemic life. But a second, deadlier strain came back in fall of 1918 and third in spring of 1919. In total, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/1918-pandemic-history.htm" target="_blank">more than 500 million people were infected</a> worldwide and upwards of <a href="https://theconversation.com/compare-the-flu-pandemic-of-1918-and-covid-19-with-caution-the-past-is-not-a-prediction-138895" target="_blank">50 million died</a> over the course of three waves.</p><p>It was the combination of a quick return to normal life and a mutation in the flu's genome that made it more deadly that led to the horrific second and third waves.</p><p>Thankfully, the coronavirus appears to be much more <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2020.104351" target="_blank">genetically stable</a> than the influenza virus, and thus less likely to mutate into a more deadly variant. That leaves human behavior as the main risk factor.</p><p>Until a <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-needs-to-go-right-to-get-a-coronavirus-vaccine-in-12-18-months-136816" target="_blank">vaccine or effective treatment is developed</a>, the tried-and-true public health measures of the last months – <a href="https://theconversation.com/this-simple-model-shows-the-importance-of-wearing-masks-and-social-distancing-140423" target="_blank">social distancing,</a> <a href="https://theconversation.com/masks-help-stop-the-spread-of-coronavirus-the-science-is-simple-and-im-one-of-100-experts-urging-governors-to-require-public-mask-wearing-138507" target="_blank">universal mask wearing</a>, frequent hand-washing and avoiding crowded indoor spaces – are the ways to stop the first wave and thwart a second one. And when there are surges like what is happening now in the U.S., further reopening plans need to be put on hold.</p>
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