U.S. Department of Energy

Rooftop Solar Challenge

The Rooftop Solar Challenge supports 22 regional teams to spur solar power deployment by cutting red tape — streamlining and standardizing permitting, zoning, metering, and connection processes — and improving finance options to reduce barriers and lower costs for residential and small commercial rooftop solar systems. This project is part of the Department's larger effort to make solar energy more accessible and affordable, increase domestic solar deployment, and position the U.S. as a leader in the rapidly-growing global solar market.

On Dec. 1, 2011, DOE announced the winners below along with their partners.

Arizona Governor's Office of Energy Policy

  • Awardees: City of Flagstaff, City of Phoenix, City of Tucson, Arizona State University's Global Institute of Sustainability, and SmartPower
  • Location: Arizona
  • Population: 2,031,618
  • Amount: $708,992
  • Highlights: The Arizona Governor's Office of Energy Policy will identify best practices in finance, permitting, and zoning to move toward voluntary statewide uniformity. The project will drive adoption of an online system in five jurisdictions that allows for over-the-counter/same-day permit review.

Broward County

  • Awardees: Broward County, Florida Power & Light, Coconut Creek, Dania Beach, Davie, Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Hillsboro Beach, Lauderdale-by-the Sea, Miramar, North Lauderdale, Oakland Park, Pompano Beach, Sunrise, and Tamarac
  • Location: Florida (Southeastern)
  • Population: 925,618
  • Amount: $646,367
  • Highlights: Broward County will remove local ordinances that create barriers to solar installations and will educate community associations about their obligations under Florida law. The project will also create a unified online system for permitting and interconnection to reduce costs and wait time.

California Center for Sustainable Energy

  • Awardees: CCSE; Energy Policy Initiatives Center; Cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, Chula Vista, Anaheim, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Santa Monica, Palm Desert, Pasadena, and Palmdale; and Los Angeles County
  • Location: California (Southern)
  • Population: 7,816,108
  • Amount: $700,001
  • Highlights: The CCSE regional team will develop model rules for permitting and interconnection processes that can bring a streamlined approach to 21% of California's population. This project will also create custom implementation plans and jurisdictional mentorship programs.

Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture)

  • Awardees: PennFuture, City of Pittsburgh, Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC), Allegheny County, CONNECT (Congress of Neighboring Communities), and Solar Unified Network of Western Pennsylvania (SUNWPA)
  • Location: Pennsylvania (Southwestern)
  • Population: 545,804
  • Amount: $315,697
  • Highlights: The PennFuture team will create a model zoning ordinance using the Solar ABCs as a foundation. It will also expand opportunities for project financing through low-interest solar loans, public-private solar investment fund, group purchasing, and community solar options.

City of Chicago

  • Awardees: City of Chicago Department of Environment, Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Environmental Law & Policy Center, and West Monroe Partners
  • Location: Chicago, Illinois
  • Population: 2,695,598
  • Amount: $750,000
  • Highlights: The City of Chicago will create an expedited solar permit process with online applications and applicant education materials that are transferable locally and regionally. The team also aims to implement a formal best practice solar zoning policy and develop solar-ready building standards.

City of San Antonio

  • Awardees: Cities of San Antonio, Houston, Austin; CPS Energy; Build San Antonio Green; and Solar San Antonio
  • Location: Texas
  • Population: 4,217,249
  • Amount: $313,217
  • Highlights: The City of San Antonio will work with policy stakeholders and utilities to advance net metering standards and interconnection provisions. This project will also enable multiple financing options for community solar programs.

City University of New York

  • Awardees: City University of New York, NYC Department of Buildings, Procemx, CUNY Ventures, IBM, and The Solar Energy Consortium
  • Location: New York City
  • Population: 8,175,133
  • Amount: $726,199
  • Highlights: This university-led team will shorten the city's approval process from one year to 100 days by creating an online multi-agency portal. The team will also create an Intelligence Operations Center to effectively measure the impact of process improvements and policies.

Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority

  • Awardees: Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, NEG Conference, United Illuminating, Northeast Utilities, Connecticut Light & Power, Snugg Home, Solar CT, University of Connecticut, and Yale University
  • Location: Connecticut
  • Population: 689,661
  • Amount: $481,473
  • Highlights: This project will help accelerate rooftop solar PV system installations in Connecticut - the state with the highest electricity prices in the continental U.S. The team will create a standardized online permitting application that synchronizes with the utility interconnection process.

Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association

  • Awardees: Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association, Rocky Mountain Institute, Denver, Boulder County, Fort Collins, Golden, and American Solar Energy Society
  • Location: Colorado
  • Population: 645,453
  • Amount: $490,897
  • Highlights: This effort aims to reduce permitting and interconnection costs by 25% through online tools, hands-on support, and quantifiable progress assessments. The team will benchmark its success against established practices and policies.

Contra Costa Economic Partnership

  • Awardees: Cities of Antioch, Brentwood, Concord, Martinez, Oakley, Richmond, San Ramon, Walnut Creek, and Contra Costa County (Unincorporated); Contra Costa Economic Partnership; and Craft Consulting Group
  • Location: California (Bay Area)
  • Population: 746,983
  • Amount: $521,529
  • Highlights: The Contra Costa Economic Partnership will develop an expedited permitting and interconnection process across a three-county region that can be scaled up and rapidly deployed statewide. The effort will also update state guidelines to encourage all new construction to be solar-ready.

Geostellar, Inc.

  • Awardees: SunEdison, Microsoft Corporation, WVU Research Corporation, Jack Fuller, JOBS Project, Mountain View Solar, and SolarNexus
  • Location: West Virginia
  • Population: 1,819,777
  • Amount: $500,000
  • Highlights: The Geostellar team will completely map the state of West Virginia for solar potential, while also providing a foundation for permitting and zoning policies. More than half of the state's counties lack building inspection or permitting processes for any type of land use improvement, including solar installations.

Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources

  • Awardees: Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC); City of Boston, City of Cambridge, Town of Harvard, Town of Hatfield, and Town of Winchester; Solar Energy Business Association of New England (SEBANE); Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS); and Massachusetts Development Financing Agency (MassDevelopment)
  • Location: Massachusetts
  • Population: 752,929
  • Amount: $566,354
  • Highlights: The Massachusetts team will make improvements in five pilot communities to determine replicable best practices. The team will work to improve access to interconnection information and remove financing barriers for homeowners.

Mid-America Regional Council

  • Awardees: Cities of Kansas City, Lee's Summit, and Olathe; Clay County and Johnson County; Kansas City Power & Light; Metropolitan Energy Center; and Mid-America Regional Council (MARC)
  • Location: Kansas/Missouri
  • Population: 795,725
  • Amount: $450,000
  • Highlights: The Mid-America Regional Council will implement reformed practices based on past success with similar initiatives. This project will launch new financing options and will clarify third-party power purchase options.

Midwest Renewable Energy Association

  • Awardees: Midwest Renewable Energy Association; Cities of Madison, Milwaukee, and Marshfield; Madison Solar Consulting; RENEW WI; and WiSEIA
  • Location: Wisconsin
  • Population: 828,042
  • Amount: $467,188
  • Highlights: This effort will streamline and standardize solar permitting processes by creating a web portal with toolkits and best practices. The team will also address net metering, power purchase agreements, leasing, structural, and city permitting issues.

Minnesota Department of Commerce

  • Awardees: Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources; City of Minneapolis, Saint Paul; and Fresh Energy
  • Location: Minnesota
  • Population: 600,000
  • Amount: $263,169
  • Highlights: This statewide effort aims to implement policy and process improvements that will make solar installation faster and less expensive. The team will work to modernize 30-year-old net metering and interconnection standards through legislative, regulatory, and administrative actions.

Nevada State Office of Energy

  • Awardees: Nevada State Office of Energy; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Truckee Meadow Community College; NV Energy; Southern Nevada Water Authority; Public Utilities Commission; Clark County; and Cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, and Reno
  • Location: Nevada
  • Population: 2,176,460
  • Amount: $765,000
  • Highlights: The Nevada State Office of Energy will standardize jurisdictional permitting procedures and push for a state-wide model. The project also aims to streamline the interconnection process and reduce solar installation burdens, including a requirement for AC disconnect switches, by working with utilities and jurisdictions.

Optony, Inc.

  • Awardees: Optony Inc.; Strategic Energy Innovations; UNLV, NAU; and Four Regional Councils: SJVRPC, DRCOG, NVNACO, and BRAG
  • Location: Southwest Region – California (Central Valley), Utah (Northern), Colorado (Denver Metro), Nevada
  • Population: 7,000,000
  • Amount: $857,625
  • Highlights: This regional team will drive market maturity across the Southwest where solar potential is abundant, but municipal resources and industry information are scarce. Efforts will include the development of a centralized online technical resource center and solar project support hotline.

Puerto Rico Energy Affairs Administration (PREAA)

  • Awardees: PREAA, State Energy Office, and University of Puerto Rico – Mayagu╠łez Campus
  • Location: Puerto Rico
  • Population: 3,725,789
  • Amount: $451,720
  • Highlights: PREAA will create an integrated, web-based information system for permitting and interconnection to increase control and transparency. The team will also propose a Solar Rights Act to avoid ambiguous statutory language that currently discourages solar development or results in litigation.

Salt Lake City Corporation

  • Awardees: Midvale City, Salt Lake City, West Valley City, Salt Lake County, and Summit County; Utah Solar Energy Association; and Utah Clean Energy
  • Location: Utah
  • Population: 514,748
  • Amount: $424,740
  • Highlights: The Salt Lake City Corporation team will create model permitting tools and processes to implement in six jurisdictions. Among other key milestones, the team will expand and improve a one-stop-shop solar permitting, mapping, and information website.


  • Awardees: SolarTech Consortium; California Energy Commission; City and County of San Francisco, East Bay Green Corridor (8 cities); Solar Sonoma County (8 cities); Clean Coalition; Local Government Commission; Bay Area Climate Collaborative; PG&E; Alameda Municipal Power; and various installers
  • Location: California (Bay Area)
  • Population: 2,100,000
  • Amount: $499,899
  • Highlights: The Solar Tech Consortium will enable adoption of improved policies and processes by up to seven local governments and utilities through the creation of "Early Adopter" pilot communities and the development of tools and model ordinances.

University of Tennessee

  • Awardees: Tennessee Valley Authority; Knoxville, Franklin, Metro Nashville, Memphis/Shelby County; Knoxville Utility Board; Nashville Electric Service; Memphis Light Gas & Water; and Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Co-op
  • Location: Tennessee
  • Population: 1,777,797
  • Amount: $622,960
  • Highlights: This university-led initiative will partner with local building officials to implement model permitting, interconnection, and net metering standards. The team will also develop an integrated smartphone/tablet app to guide individuals through the application process.

Washington State Department of Commerce

  • Awardees: Cities of Seattle, Bellevue, Edmonds, and Ellensburg; Northwest SEED; Solar WA; Thurston Energy; Sustainable Connections; and serving utilities
  • Location: Washington State
  • Population: 788,906
  • Amount: $523,800
  • Highlights: The Washington State Department of Commerce will create an online permitting system, shorten permitting processing turnaround times, and fix fees through this effort. The team will also work to eliminate the use of external disconnect switches and lift system size and program capacity limits.