Commercial and Residential Solar PV Permit Campaign:
Los Angeles County

June 20, 2011 Press Release Announcing Report Release

Executive Summary

A 2010 - 2011 survey by the Sierra Club revealed wide variations in permit fees charged for commercial and residential rooftop photovoltaic (PV) energy systems by municipalities in Los Angeles County. The survey found that fees for commercial PV projects of 131 kW in size varied from nothing to over $46,000. High fees can discourage businesses and residences from making good, long-term, high-yield investments in solar power. Fifty-five municipalities (62% of those that responded to this survey) are charging fees that exceed the maximum cost-recovery levels identified in this report for commercial PV projects. Thirteen cities are charging more than $20,000 for a commercial PV permit (8 times higher than an estimated maximum fee that enables full cost recovery). Commercial PV permit fees for some LA County cities are extremely high. For 3kW residential PV permits half of the municipalities in LA County are charging fees that are excessive!

Survey results, 131 kW Commercial Project

Survey results, 3 kW Residential 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 two to three times longer than a 10 kW project (not ten times as long). 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 and current PV permit fees 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 this executive summary of the Solar Electric Permit Fee report for Commercial and Residential Installations in Los Angeles County

View the full Report of Solar Electric Permit Fees for Commercial and Residential Installations in Los Angeles County