Solar PV Permit Fee Campaign News Release for Commercial Projects in San Diego County

Kurt Newick

Commercial PV permit fee report for large commercial projects in San Diego County (a Sierra Club, San Diego Chapter) report.

The Sierra Club (San Diego and Loma Prieta Chapters) have initiated a campaign to encourage municipalities in San Diego County to support the installation of large-scale solar power systems on commercial structures by lowering permit fees. In November 2010, the Sierra Club formally asked municipalities with unreasonably high commercial solar permit fees to consider lowering them to cost-recovery levels.

In the fall of 2010, Sierra Club volunteers surveyed all the municipalities in San Diego county to determine their estimated permit fees for installing roof-mounted photovoltaic (PV) systems on commercial buildings. Such structures can include office buildings, stores, industrial facilities, schools, churches, government and non-profit buildings. Volunteers conducted this survey for a 131 kW PV project. A new report has just been published for the Sierra Club’s Commercial PV permit fee campaign for San Diego County.

Some cities, such as the city of San Diego, have formally adopted PV permit fee schedules and provided confident survey answers. Some jurisdictions have adjusted their fees as a result of the Utility Consumer Action Network’s PV permit campaign in 2001 and the Sierra Club's solar permit fee campaign which began for residential PV systems in 2009 for the Southern California area.

The survey shows that for commercial PV projects 131 kW in size, 37% (7 out of 19) of the jurisdictions are over-charging fees, exceeding maximum cost recovery threshold levels as determined by an innovative PV permit fee calculator highlighted in this new report. Kurt Newick, leader of the study states, “This survey reveals many municipalities are complementing federal and state governments by incentivizing solar power with very reasonable permit fees, while other cities are doing just the opposite, charging many times more than what is needed to recover costs.”

On November 22, 2010, the survey team contacted 6 municipalities that have fees exceeding $5,000 for the 131 kW system size. The team did this to notify these cities that their solar permit fees where unreasonably high and request that they review their solar permit fee calculation methods, since they are likely charging fees higher than cost-recovery levels. Charging more for solar permits than the reasonable costs to administer them violates California Government Code Section 66014, which provides that fees associated with building inspections and building permits "shall not exceed the estimated reasonable cost of providing the service for which the fee is charged."

Since local sunlight and available roof space are plentiful, only the number of solar power installations limits the production potential of this abundant renewable resource. This news release and solar permit fee campaign acknowledges leaders of those cities that have already taken action to make solar energy more affordable, particularly for businesses and non-profit entities, and ask others to follow their lead.
The attached chart shows PV permit fees for commercial buildings for jurisdictions in San Diego County.
Sierra Club PV Permit Fee Campaign:
Sierra Club Commercial PV Permit Fee Report for San Diego County:

PV Fees 131 kW Chart

pvfeenewsrelcommercialsandiego.pdf ||