California Streamlines Rooftop Solar Permitting

On September 4, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Solar Permitting Efficiency Act (AB 2188) into law. The sponsor of the new law, Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), said it “will create more solar jobs, contribute to California’s clean energy goals, and save homeowners money on their electricity bills. California businesses, residents, and our environment will all benefit from a streamlined permitting process that eliminates confusion and unduly costs.

“The idea for my bill came after a visit to a local solar installation company. They told me it often took months to install solar panels on someone’s rooftop, but it only takes from half a day to a day to actually install the panels, so the vast bulk of the delay comes from getting the permits and getting the necessary approvals from dealing with the local bureaucracy.”

In part, the Solar Permitting Efficiency Act will require cities and counties to speed up the permitting and inspection process for residential rooftop solar energy systems and prohibit homeowner associations from passing restrictions that increase the cost of solar panel systems by more than $1,000.

Bernadette Del Chiaro, Executive Director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association described some agency permitting processes as “byzantine” with more than more than 500 jurisdictions in California that have their own processes and code interpretations.

The law now requires “city, county, or city and county to adopt, on or before September 30, 2015, in consultation with specified public entities an ordinance that creates an expedited, streamlined permitting process for small residential rooftop solar energy systems. For a small residential rooftop solar energy system eligible for expedited review, only one inspection shall be required, which shall be done in a timely manner and may include a consolidated inspection.”

In combination with the new solar online permitting process rolled out by the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, rooftop residential solar in California has never been easier. As Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “The work done by the Department of Building and Safety, together with ongoing customer service improvements for solar customers underway at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, will cut costs and help create local jobs in the City’s growing solar installation industry.”

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