How Easy Is it to Go Solar in Your City?


When most people pick where to live, they don’t put efficient solar permitting processes at the top of their list of requirements. This can come back to bite homeowners looking to go solar, as the time and cost of permitting a system varies greatly depending on the city.

A new study by Complete Solar is making this information more widely available. The study shows how cities across California rank in easing the switch to solar for homeowners. The Solar Ease Index reviews permitting fees and wait times, and shows a huge disparity across the state.

“We want to honor those cities that work to make it easy for homeowners to switch to solar power,” said Dan Garfield, Marketing Director for Complete Solar. “Install time and fees have a huge impact on homeowners who choose to switch to solar. Permit delays and expensive fees can cost thousands of dollars in missed power generation and discourage residents from switching to a cheaper, sustainable form of energy.”

Cities on the list are ranked based on permit turnaround times and fees.

In all of the top 10 cities, permits to install solar panels are returned within a single day. The second factor, permitting fees, ranges in these cities from $0 (Menlo Park) to $170 (San Francisco).

Best-Ranked Cities in California:

Menlo Park
Mill Valley
San Francisco

The lowest-ranked cities require anywhere from $500 to $1300 in permitting fees, and in those cities it can take up to 30 days to get a permit (San Mateo).

Worst-Ranked Cities in California:

Pico Rivera
La Mirada
Monterey Park
San Mateo

This information goes hand-in-hand with a recent study released by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In that report, researchers found that permitting costs throughout the country can vary by as much as $700, with cost differences jumping up to $2500 when including additional local regulatory procedures.

In California, steps are being taken to address permitting issues. AB 2188, recently signed into law, standardizes and streamlines permitting practices statewide, shortening approval times and lowering costs.

As for the rest of the country, efforts are under way to document the permitting process across the United States. The hope is that by finding out the true cost and time differences, an efficient standard can be decided upon and help to further bring down the cost of going solar.