New Bill Could Make Residential Solar In California A Lot Cheaper

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"New Bill Could Make Residential Solar In California A Lot Cheaper"

Solar City employees install a solar panel on a home in south Denver.

Solar City employees install a solar panel on a home in south Denver.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

Residential solar in California could soon get a lot cheaper, if an assembly bill on its way to the governor’s desk is signed into law.

The bill, called the Solar Permitting Efficiency Act, was passed by California’s Legislature last week. If the governor signs the bill into law — he has until September 30 to do so — it will create an “expedited, streamlined permitting and inspection process for residential rooftop solar,” and according to the LA Times, could end up saving residents who install rooftop solar up to $1,000. The savings estimation comes from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which has studied how more efficient permitting procedures can affect residents who are installing rooftop solar.

“Our research –- past and current –- shows that savings of up to $1,000 are plausible for a typically sized residential [solar panel] system,” Ryan Wiser, a researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, told the LA Times.

The bill was introduced by California State Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D) after he found out from officials at Verengo Solar last year that the permitting process is slowing down solar installations in some parts of California. Muratsuchi said the officials told him that 64 out of the 65 days it often takes to install residential solar panels are spent “wading through the local bureaucracy to get the necessary permits and approvals.” His bill aims to speed that process up, and will also ban homeowners associations from adopting policies that increase the cost of residential solar systems by more than $1,000.

The bill comes as other states’ efforts to impose solar fees on customers spark outrage from residents. In Utah, Rocky Mountain Power proposed a policy earlier this year that would charge residential solar customers an extra $4.25 a month, but residents have been quick to voice their opposition to the fee. Arizona’s main energy regulator, too, voted to add a $5 per month fee to its solar customers. The fee may not sound like much, but in the first quarter of 2014, solar applications in the area covered by the state’s largest utility fell by 40 percent compared to the same time in 2013.

The passage of Muratshuchi’s bill also comes as California’s solar power plants hit a new record for electricity output, reaching 4.813 gigawatts of output in the afternoon of August 15. California is the leading state in the nation for solar energy, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), installing 2,746 megawatts of solar electric capacity in 2013 alone. But not all solar news out of California is good. One of the world’s largest solar farms, proposed to be built in a region south of Silicon Valley, had a major investor — Duke Energy — withdraw recently. It’s unclear whether the solar farm — which has been opposed by multiple environmental organizations, who say it will harm endangered species in the area — will still be built.

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