Nine California East Bay cities streamlining solar permits

A solar-powered home. The East Bay Green Corridor might want to take page from the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) and dub themselves a Solar Friendly corridor. Nine cities in the corridor are working together to streamline the solar permitting process in each of their jurisdictions.

The move, much like COSIEA’s Solar Friendly Communities program is aimed at reducing the complexities and soft costs of solar. By reducing the need for excessive permitting and other engineering paperwork, it can save homeowners and installers in the region between $850 and $3,500 in installation costs, according to the San Jose Mercury News. It also adds significant time, though it only takes a solar installer about a day to complete its end of the paperwork related to a solar installation, it can take a city more than a month to complete all the paperwork and any required inspections, delaying a project for months sometimes.

Tuesday (August 6) the green corridor and the nine cities (Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Hayward, Oakland, Richmond and San Leandro) held a press conference to announce the new permitting process plans. The cities plan to introduce the new permitting process in coming weeks and months, the newspaper said. That’s not too long, considering that the cities have been working to introduce a streamlined permitting process, that all cities can use, for three years.

The permitting process could feasibly be used for other sustainability improvements, too, ranging from EV chargers to graywater systems. "We're hoping this can be scaled statewide and then nationally," said East Bay Green Corridor
Director Carla Din.

Under the new solar permitting process fees for participating cities will be as low as $100 in El Cerrito and as high as $615 in Richmond. In addition six of the nine cities will have same day permitting processes, while the other cities plan to complete permits within seven days, according to the newspaper.

An important part of the  permitting process is a new structural checklist for solar installers. The checklist requires contractors to record structural information so officials can more easily and rapidly determine whether or not to the building can handle the solar array.

The effort is supported by a SunShot Initiative grant as is COSEIA’s Solar Friendly Communities, which is supported under SunShot’s Rooftop Solar Challenge. Both are aimed at reducing the soft costs of solar, which, in the U.S. have remained high even as the cost of PV has fallen dramatically since 2009.