Kudos to the Sierra Club for shedding light on the huge discrepancies in local permit fees for rooftop solar installations on commercial buildings. According to a Sierra Club survey, permits for installing 131 kilowatts of photovoltaic panels — enough for a 10,000-square-foot building — range from a high of $31,548 in Morro Bay to just $273 in Atascadero.
When you consider that Morro Bay charges just $200 to $500 for a permit for a residential installation, it’s hard to understand how the city can justify charging so much more for a business.
Keep in mind, too, that the solar panels for a 10,000-square-foot building cost in the neighborhood of $700,000. That’s already a huge investment, and a permit fee that adds tens of thousands more dollars could be a deal-breaker for some businesses.
At least the Morro Bay City Council is reviewing its exorbitant permit fees.
The cities of Pismo Beach and Grover Beach — which charge $15,907 and $9,509, respectively — have not responded to a Sierra Club request that they lower their fees.
We second the Sierra Club in asking for a review.
Cities should do all they can to foster clean energy, and keeping permit fees as affordable as possible is a logical incentive for businesses and homeowners alike.
We commend the cities of Atascadero, Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, which all had fees of less than $1,500 in the Sierra Club survey.
We strongly urge the other cities to encourage rooftop solar installations by bringing their fees in line with what other agencies charge.