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League Hosts Successful Webinar on Solar Permitting

Governor Signs Solar Legislation

October 5, 2012

On Tuesday, the League hosted a free webinar to discuss the new California Solar Permitting Guidebook recently released by Gov. Jerry Brown’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR).


OPR’s Deputy Director Wade Crowfoot presented elements from the guidebook and answered questions from participants during the webinar. His presentation has been posted on the League’s website at http://bit.ly/QLGVuE.

California Solar Permitting Guidebook

The free guidebook was developed to help local governments improve permitting for small solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, as well as what local agencies must do to meet state requirements for small solar residential and commercial permitting.   

The guidebook is broken into three parts: Current laws, regulations and codes, the project approval process, and recommendations for improving local solar permitting. 

The guidebook, including several template documents that local governments can customize for their own use to improve permitting, along with additional resources and information can be found on OPRs website

Recent Solar Legislation

The issue of solar panel building fee permits also gained traction this session in part from the Administration’s efforts to achieve 12,000 megawatts of renewable distributed generation capacity by 2020. The League specifically tracked two bills in the Legislature this year – AB 1801 (Leno) and SB 1222 (Campos). Gov. Jerry Brown signed both bills last month.

SB 1222 (Leno) Chapter 614, Statutes of 2012) places a statutory cap on building permit fees for residential solar roof top systems of $500 (plus $15 per kilowatt [kwh] for each kwh above 15 kwh). It also requires local agencies charging above $500 in permit fees to justify their “reasonable costs” in a finding and ordinance. The bill  caps commercial rooftop solar system fees at $1,000 for systems up to 50 kwh (plus $7 per kilowatt for each kilowatt between 51 kwh and 250 kwh, plus $5 per kwh for each one above 250 kwh). The League opposed SB 1222 for two key reasons. First, under the current Mitigation Fee Act, when a local government imposes a fee it may not exceed the estimated reasonable costs of providing the service for which the fee is charged and requiring findings to justify reasonable costs is duplicative and unnecessary. Second, the League opposed SB 1222 because the state should not be establishing the level of building permit fees in state law without regard to individual city costs. 

While strongly opposing SB 1222, the League supported AB 1801 (Campos) Chapter 538, Statutes of 2012) because it enhances current law by clarifying that valuation is not an acceptable method for setting a residential solar building permit fee. In letters to the Governor, the League noted that AB 1801, coupled with the Office of Planning and Research California Solar Permitting Guidebook and the County Planning Directors California Solar Planning Guide, will provide a strong base of information and guidance for local agencies to permit residential rooftop solar systems by providing helpful templates and models for cities to follow when looking at updating their solar permitting.

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