With an 80% drop since 2008, the cost of solar has plummeted almost as much as Congress’ approval ratings. (Well, maybe not that much!)
Yet according to the good people over at the Vote Solar, there’s still low hanging fruit to reduce solar costs further, and their plum pick is the solar permitting process. To prove it, they’ve made a little video explaining how “long waits, unnecessary fees, excessive inspections, and heaps of avoidable paperwork” often add up to lots of dollars and little sense.
Accompanying this video is an interactive U.S. map that scores cities and counties by their permitting practices. https://projectpermit.org/
There’s also resources to help municipalities and advocates improve permitting processes to make solar more affordable, and social media tools to help everyone spread the word. The idea is to promote best practices across the nation by providing simple online tools to prod your local representatives into action. These best practices include:
• Post Requirements Online. Information and a submittal checklist of all requirements, permits and fees for rooftop solar permits should be easily accessible on the city’s website. Click here for an example of a solar checklist.
• Fast Permit Process. If a PV installation meets clearly defined review requirements, then there should be a fast (within 24 hours) review process.
• Online Permit Submission. An easy way to reduce travel and time for installers and workload for municipalities. A permit should require no more than one visit to the building department for properly completed application.
• Reasonable Permitting Fees. That fairly reflect the time needed for city staff to review and issue a permit. A reasonable residential permit fee should be a flat fee of $400 or less if best practices are followed.
• Inspection Appointments. An exact appointment time to reduce the amount of waiting for inspectors.
• Train Permitting Staff in Solar. Click here for free online training for code officials, developed by IREC.
A Sunrun report from 2011 estimated that we could cut as much as $2,500 off the cost of an average home solar installation simply through streamlined permitting. With best practices like those above, we can start to make a difference.