Commercial Solar PV Permit Campaign:
Orange County

Jan. 4, 2011 (updated Jan. 12, 2011) Press Release Announcing Report

Sept. 7, 2011 Press Release Announcing results of Orange County cities that have lowered their commercial PV permit fees

Links to media stories at the end of this web page

Executive Summary

A fall 2010 survey by the Sierra Club revealed wide variation in permit fees charged for commercial rooftop photovoltaic (PV) energy systems by municipalities in Orange County. The survey found that fees for commercial PV projects of 131 kW in size varied from nothing to almost $8,000. High fees can discourage businesses from making good, long-term, high-yield investments in solar power. 34% of the surveyed municipalities are charging fees that exceed the maximum cost-recovery levels identified in this report.

Survey results, 131 kW commercial project

The time needed for city staff to review and inspect a commercial PV project does not vary linearly by system size. For instance, interviews conducted in the preparation of this report revealed that the difference in time needed to process a 100 kW PV project is about two to three times longer than a 10 kW project (not ten times longer). Basing fees on the value of the solar equipment inflates permit costs to unreasonably high levels, especially for larger, more expensive solar power projects. To recover costs, therefore, permit fees should be based on specific review times and billable hourly rates and not on PV project valuations.

The authors of this study have developed a free, public fee calculator spreadsheet to help municipalities determine cost recovery.

You can see the detailed (dynamically updated) survey responses for each city at:

This report recommends best practices that municipalities can adopt to assure greater consistency, and help businesses develop an energy source that leads to a healthier, safer, and more stable community. These include setting permit fees at cost-recovery levels, and instituting streamlined permit processing procedures.

View the executive summary of Solar Electric Permit Fees for Commercial Installations in Orange County

View the key recommendations on PV permitting issues

View the full Report of Solar Electric Permit Fees for Commercial Installations in Orange County

Links to stories on solar permit fees in Orange County:

Jan. 13, 2011 Article in Orange County Register: Which cities Charge Exorbitant Fees for Solar Permits?

Jan. 14, 2011 Article in Sierra Club Criticizes OC Cities for Charging High Fees for Solar Installation Permits

Jan. 18, 2011 Article in Dana Point Times: Sierra Club: Dana Point Solar Panel Permit Fees Among Lowest in County, San Clemente Highest

Jan. 20, 2011 Article in San Clemente Times: Sierra Club: San Clemente Overcharges for Solar Panel Permits

Mar. 10, 2011 Article in Orange County Register: Orange cuts fees for solar panel projects

Aug. 31, 2011 Article in Orange County Register: San Clemente caps solar fees for businesses