Palo Alto has taken another step towards making it easier than ever for residents of the California city to go solar. In addition to launching a feed-in tariff last year to support the expansion of rooftop solar in the city, Palo Alto has now streamlined the permitting processes for residential and commercial solar photovoltaics (PVs).
Last week the city announced that its Development Center launched a streamlined photovoltaic permitting process. The city’s Photovoltaic Action Committee developed the new permitting process over four months. During this time, they worked with local solar developers to improve the permitting and inspection process for residential and commercial PV systems.
Under the new system, residents and business owners' plans for PV systems may receive approval within five days of submitting all paperwork to the center. In fact, if a home or business owner wants to make an appointment with the city’s Development Center and has all the necessary paperwork in order, they could even walk out with an approved permit the day they go in. In reducing the time for permitting, the city also consolidated the inspection process.
“In the few months we have been piloting this program since we last met with the PVAC we have seen drastic improvements in approval and pass rates for both plan checks and inspections,” said Development Service Director Peter Pirnejad. “Projects are getting through our process quicker and with more predictable results.”
“Process updates such as this advance our efforts for a fully open government. This type of collaboration between city staff and developers facilitates a deeper level of interaction within our community,” said Palo Alto City Manager James Keene.
The changes pleased at least one PV installer. “The city has made impressive reforms in expediting Palo Alto PV approvals that streamline the process in a number of ways including prompt permit issuance,” said Kurt Newick, system designer with Cobalt Power Systems. “The City has also pushed for adoption of the nation’s ABC solar guidelines [a nationally recognized solar permit streamlining process]. Cobalt is looking forward to utilizing the streamlined PV installation process,” he added.
“We are committed to providing a streamlined and predictable path to permitting photovoltaic installations,” Pirnejad said. “Thanks to the collaborative efforts of Councilmember Patrick Burt, photovoltaic installers, and representatives from the Development Services and Utility Departments, we were able to reach this goal.”
In launching the new permitting process, the city joins a growing number of communities across the nation that are working to reduce the soft—or non-solar equipment related—costs of solar.