So, you want to do your bit to reduce greenhouse gases and save the planet. And if you save some money on your electric bill, well, who’s going to say “no” to that? Following the Solar Decathlon as if it were the pennant race, you’re convinced that solar power is the way to go.
You’ve done your research on contractors, rebates, tax incentives, etc., and you know exactly how much your up-front cost is going to be. Right?
Did you remember to find out how much your city or county charges for a permit? And, since time is money, exactly how long will you have to wait for them to process the permit?
Sound like trivialities? Rosalind Jackson of the Vote Solar Initiative begs to differ — and she has the information to prove it, in the form of a user-friendly, Web-based interactive map. It’s part of Vote Solar’s Project: Permit.
“In general,” Jackson tells The Sun, “there’s simply not a great understanding of solar permitting best practices out there. The fees and processes associated with solar permits have been developed somewhat arbitrarily. We’re hoping to change that by providing some clear targets and getting residents and businesses to call for change in their own hometown.”
Using the Map
The map is so easy to use that you should feel free to just check it out on your own, here. That said, here’s a quick run down on how the map works:
In the image above you can see how different the permitting process is in communities just a few miles apart.
You want to put up some solar panels on your house in Mesa, Arizona. Great. There’s no charge for the permit and the process is completed over the counter. Walk in with the plans, walk out with your permit.
If you live just under five miles to the south east, in the town of Queen Creek, your experience is going to be a bit different. First off, the same permit that you received free in Mesa is going to cost you $1,450 here. And don’t bother hanging around while they process your permit. It’ll take between three days and a week. Walk in with the plans, write out a fat check, go home and wait.
Why the difference? Jackson explains that while the disparities may have begun arbitrarily, that can change with citizen activism:
“Solar energy is all about the democratization of power – people taking control of their own electricity generation rather than waiting for the utilities to do the right thing. Project: Permit is really an extension of that spirit – democracy in environmental and energy decision making. Ordinary people have a direct line to their city leaders who in turn have the power to streamline this very important piece of the solar cost equation. This isn’t a policy debate off in DC or Copenhagen, this is a way for any Arizonan to make a real difference in our energy future.”