The Colorado legislature has passed the Fair Permit Act HB-1199, which will limit solar permit and related fees to a local government’s actual
costs in issuing the permit, not to exceed $500 for a residential
installation or $1,000 for a commercial system. This legislation also
closed loopholes and improves transparency in the permit process.
In what could become a new national model for lowering solar fees, the Fair Permit Act flew through the legislature by large
majorities, passing the Colorado Senate on a 33-2 vote and through the
House 64-1. The bipartisan legislation heads to the Governor’s desk to
be signed into law.
Costs to install solar technology are set to decrease in Colorado under the new legislation to prevent state and local government agencies from charging excessive permit fees and plan review fees to customers installing solar electric or solar thermal systems.
Most solar installations require a permit from a local government or state agency, which can add about $2,516 per U.S. residential installation on average and can exceed $100,000 for large-scale installations, according to a recent national study. In Colorado, state permit fees more than doubled in 2010 as solar power gained popularity, and local fees and processes vary widely by region. In some communities, government permit costs can exceed the labor costs to install a solar system.
Nationally, the U.S. Department of Energy, through its SunShot Program, has recently set a goal to reduce permit and inspection costs by 88% by streamlining processes and reducing unnecessary fees. This is part of a larger effort to reduce solar panel costs to $1 per watt by 2017.