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Vote Solar took an in-depth look at the solar permitting process, and its developments, in Pennsylvania, the third state in the organizations Project: Permit campaign. The report examined 36 local jurisdictions throughout the state and benchmarked their practices against industry best practices. Vote Solar noted that the average process for permitting a residential solar system in Pennsylvania is nearly twice as expensive, and eight times longer, than recommended best practices.
The report conceded that the local permitting practices varied widely by municipality with the high end of permit fees costing up to US$1,200 and taking as many as 15 business days. The cities of Lebanon, Middletown, Norristown and Fort Washington were cited as needing the most improvement while Ambler, Altoona, Bethlehem and Lancaster led in solar-friendly permit practices. The state’s biggest cities, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, were noted as falling “somewhere in between.” Both cities are partnering with the US Department of Energy (DOE) to lower permitting costs.
Philadelphia has developed a comprehensive guide and online portal that details the installation and permitting processes. The city has also provided exemptions for systems that meet certain criteria from the building review process and provides an efficient combined permit at the electrical permits counter without needing to go the building permit counter.
Pittsburgh is one of 24 municipalities working with various organizations to streamline solar zoning, permitting and inspection procedures through the DOE’s SunShot Rooftop Challenge. The collaboration aims to develop a model ordinance and permitting practices that will be available to all Pennsylvania municipalities by February 2013. Vote Solar notes that the permitting process will be mirrored after the DOE Solar ABCs expedited permitting process and the solar permitting fees it recommended.