One of the biggest issues in installing residential solar in the U.S. is the permitting process. Each city, town and jurisdiction has its own permitting process and rules, making it more difficult for solar contractors to install solar. Now the country’s biggest supporter of solar, California my be set to do something about it.
This week the California Senate may vote to approve Assembly Bill 2188, which would streamline the permitting process across the state. In May the Assembly voted 58-8 to approve the measure.
“Many jurisdictions in the state have adopted best practices that have significantly cut down on permitting wait times, while maintaining important public health and safety standards,” said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D –Torrance), who authored the bill. “It’s time that we expand these practices statewide, which will help make solar more affordable and increase access to more California homeowners who want to control their electricity bills and generate their own clean energy.”
Currently there are roughly 500 different permitting processes for solar in California. Each one has different wait times and processes. Some are quicker than others and require less inspections. The legislation would ensure that authority having jurisdictions throughout the state would adopt a streamlined permitting process by Sept. 30,2015. It would also require inspection of an installed solar array within five days of a request.
The costs of permitting can also be significant. The Lawrence Berkeley National Labs found in a study that residential solar system costs could be reduced by $1,000 or more just by streamlining the permitting process. Overall the permitting of a PV array can cost up to about $2,500 in some parts of the U.S.
“Streamlined permitting doesn’t mean weaker consumer protections,” said Tom Butts, city council member in Richmond, which has already adopted a streamlined permitting procedure akin to that envisioned in AB 2188. “Local governments run more smoothly by applying practical, tried and true efficiency measures to the permitting system.”
Other states and cities are also working to streamline the permitting process. For instance, Colorado’s Solar Friendly Communities effort, which was initiated by the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association has led to streamlined permitting processes in a number of Colorado cities, among them Denver, Fort Collins and Golden. The project there is support buy the DOE’s SunShot Initiative, Rocky Mountain Institute and the American Solar Energy Society. In Denver, the first city dubbed a Solar Friendly Community, residents get a permit for solar the same day they submit an application.Tweet