Sierra Club Exposes Excessive Local California Solar Installers Permit Fees

One of the many services the Sierra Club routinely performs is to survey local and government solar installers permit fees to determine if they are excessive. In February the Sierra Club took a look at local municipalities in San Luis Obispo County (Central coast area of California) and discovered huge disparities between local government home and business solar permitting fees.

Red meat issues like excessive permit fees in the Sierra Club’s solar fees survey are something the grassroots conservative party should be teamed up with the progressive party to expose and change.

Talk about your government interference with job creation and business growth. That’s not enough reason to get fired up. Then let’s talk about the positive effects solar installation can have on climate change and exporting our countries wealth overseas. Did you know that 30% of our trade deficit you hear about in the nightly news is our dependence on foreign oil?

I doubt if anyone would argue that local permit fees should exist, but when local government solar installers permit fees are so excessive they slow down the solar businessmen and really do some serious damage to the economies of local communities.

Volunteers with the Sierra Club surveyed all seven municipalities as well as the county of San Luis Obispo to determine how much the fees would be to install 131 kilowatts of solar panels on the roof of a business. 131 kW of solar is about 582 solar panels and would require local solar installers providing a much-needed economic boost to our broken economy. The hypothetical solar installation might be a medium size PV (Photovoltaic system) on say a big box store’s roof.

The Sierra Club discovered the solar permit fees range from $273 in Atascadero to $31,548 in Morro Bay. The solar survey is part of a statewide effort by the Sierra Club to encourage local governments to charge only enough in solar permit fees to cover costs and thereby encourage more small-scale commercial solar installations, said Kurt Newick, coördinator of the club’s permit-fee campaign and reported in the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

“This solar permit survey reveals many municipalities are complementing federal and state governments by incentivizing solar power with very reasonable permit solar fees, while other cities are doing just the opposite, charging many times more than what is needed to recover inspection costs,” he said.

The hypothetical 131 kilowatt solar installation used in the survey would typically fit on the roof of a 10,000-square-foot building, such as a small grocery store. The cost of such a solar installation would be about $700,000, and reasonable permit fees would be no more than $2,500, Newick said.

Morro Bay, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach all had solar permit fees well above that amount. The club asked those cities to lower their fees. Only Morro Bay responded, Newick said.

Morro Bay building inspector Brian Cowen said only three buildings in the city, all of them supermarkets, have enough roof area to accommodate a PV solar system of that scale. The Morro Bay City Council, including three new members, is reviewing its solar permit fees.

“The city does issue permits regularly for rooftop solar PV (solar) systems on residential buildings,” Cowen told the Sierra Club. “The permit and plan check fees are typically on the order of $200 to $500, depending on the scale/stated value of the system.” Big differences.

131-kilowatt solar installers permit fees per local government as of February:

Morro Bay: $31,548
Pismo Beach: $15,907
Grover Beach: $9,509
SLO County: $2,585
Paso Robles: $1,406
San Luis Obispo: $910
Arroyo Grande: $350
Atascadero: $273

The Sierra Club is one of many watchdog group that works hard to keep governments as well as business honest. Many thanks to the Sierra Club for this effort to keep the momentum of solar panel installation powering forward.