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EERE Success Story—SolarTech: Sun Sets on Yesterday's Solar Permitting Practices

October 1, 2012 - 3:26pm


Lengthy reviews, high costs, and inconsistent procedures are a thing of the past for residents of San Francisco looking to install solar energy systems. San Francisco government administrators have spent the past decade working to address a range of solar market barriers. Now, they are able to serve as a model for other jurisdictions with the implementation of their recently published Streamlined Permitting Process report.

"Our permitting best practices document explains what we've done and how others can do it," said Danielle Murray, Renewable Energy Program Manager for the San Francisco Department of the Environment. "These steps have been put into practice successfully, including some of the recent changes like online submission."

San Francisco began offering electronic submission of solar permits this year, allowing applications for systems sized 4 kilowatts or less to be submitted and paid for online. As part of the SolarTech Consortium, the San Francisco Department of the Environment has made rapid strides such as this with support from DOE's Rooftop Solar Challenge, and previously though DOE's Solar America Cities program.

"Several exciting things will hit the street soon as part of our larger group effort," said David McFeely, Director of Industry Solutions and Grants for SolarTech and lead for the for the Northern California team. For example, the East Bay Green Corridor and Solar Sonoma County are taking the recently released California governor's office permitting recommendations and implementing them across multiple jurisdictions. This will allow solar integrators to work with the same process from one project site to another. The Clean Coalition is working on interconnection best practices, essentially doing for interconnection what Solar ABCs has done for permitting.

In addition, Solar Sonoma County just introduced the Clean Energy Advocate program, which helps to lower the cost of acquiring new customers. In addition, inspector training for solar building and fire codes has proven especially popular. Efforts focused on improved financing options and better training resources are planned for the months ahead before SolarTech's period of performance draws to a close in February.

"Everyone is just cranking away to the finish line," said David. "We're excited to do our part to make solar a more cost effective option for consumers, so hopefully we'll be able to say that we made a dent in solar soft costs in the Bay Area after we've wrapped up this project."

This project is funded by the Rooftop Solar Challenge program under the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) success stories highlight the positive impact of its work with businesses, industry partners, universities, research labs, and other entities.