Thanks to the efforts of the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club
, it now costs less to permit solar panel installations in many San Francisco Bay Area communities. The price reduction is the result of a survey the chapter conducted six months ago
in which they queried 40 building and planning departments and asked how much it would cost for permits to install a typical solar system on a house. As the San Jose Mercury News reports
, the survey showed "wild variations in fees and red tape."
Saratoga, for example, charged $95 for a permit. But in Los Gatos, two miles away, city planners told the Sierra Club they would charge $1,287 for a permit to install the same system. Some municipalities with streamlined processes, like San Jose, took minutes to issue a solar permit, while others, like Hillsborough or Santa Clara County, could take a month or longer.
12 cities cited in the report have since lowered their permit fees, some quite dramatically. In San Mateo, for example, the permit price dropped from more than $1200 to just over $200. Two cities -- Los Altos Hills and San Carlos -- now waive the fee entirely. The change makes sense in a state that whose governor is spearheading a "Million Solar Roofs" campaign. As the Mercury News
's Paul Rogers explains:
The largest investment in solar power of any state in U.S. history, the [Million Solar Roofs] plan tacked a new fee of about $1.10 a month on utility bills to provide $3.2 billion in rebates over the next 11 years. The subsidy will pay about one-third of the costs for people who install solar power on their homes or businesses.
With incentives like that, it's crazy to perpetuate dis-incentives like high permitting fees.