Bill Would Streamline Rooftop Solar Permits

Installing rooftop solar in California might get easier, depending on the State Senate | Photo: Brian Kusler/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A group of solar installers wearing hardhats descended on the State Capitol today to urge lawmakers to support a bill that would make it much easier to pull permits for rooftop solar projects.

The hard-hatted lobbyists were joined at a press event by the bill's author, Assembly member Al Muratsuchi, who represents Torrance. AB 2188 would force local governments to drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to acquire permits for solar panel installation. The bill would also prevent homeowners' associations from blocking permits for most small solar arrays.

"While it can take a solar company eight hours to install a home solar system, it can take as many as five weeks to get a permit," said Muratsuchi. "AB 2188 is a commonsense approach to reducing red tape, promoting clean energy, and helping consumers save money."

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The bill passed the Assembly by a 58-8 vote, and is now under consideration by the State Senate.

Each of California's cities and counties has its own process by which it issues permits to install rooftop or other small-scale solar, and solar advocates estimate that the delays involved in obtaining permits can add between $1,500 and $3,000 to the cost of a typical solar system for a modestly sized home. AB 2188 would require cities and counties to issue permits for small solar systems in a manner similar to conventional building permits, with just one inspection required.

The bill would also keep homeowners associations from blocking permits for solar panels. HOAs would still be able to enact design standards, but those standards couldn't raise the cost of a solar installation by more than 10 percent, or reduce the amount of power it produces by more than 10 percent.

Lobbyists pointed to a February report by the Solar Foundation that estimated the solar industry employs more than 47,000 Californians -- a notable figure, given that the state's three largest investor-owned utilities Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and San Diego Gas and Electric employ only 38,599 people combined.

"Rooftop solar power is not only contributing meaningfully to California's clean energy goals, it is also putting people to work in every corner of the state," said California Solar Energy Industries Association exsecutive director Bernadette Del Chiaro. "We're talking a big number of local construction jobs from the North Coast to the Central Valley to the Inland Empire that can't be outsourced."

About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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