San José Works to Make Commercial Solar Permit Process Easier

San José Mayor Sam Liccardo came to speak at CALSEIA's Bay Area Chapter meeting on November 16 at SunPower’s San José headquarters.  The mayor was justifiably proud of the efforts that San José has made to promote rooftop solar in their city, citing their early adoption of the residential streamlining standards per AB 2188 and several other recent initiatives across the city.  However, at the meeting some solar industry representatives communicated that while the residential solar permit process in San José is exemplary, there is room for improvement in the commercial solar permit process, citing many cases of long and expensive permitting experiences, and one in particular where a commercial solar permit took 490 days from inception to permit issuance.  This extreme example understandably grabbed the mayor’s attention and a meeting was scheduled to review specific cases of permit process challenges and possible improvements.  On December 21, solar veteran Gary Gerber and the Sun Light & Power team met with a group from the San José building department, including Chief Building Official Chu Chang. For the specific project which took 490 days, once the group looked into the details of the project, it turned out that the challenge for the extreme delay was actually due to a delay on the client’s end -- there was no fault by the City of San José.  Upon learning of this, Sun Light and Power gave the City of San José team an immediate and official apology.  Over the course of the meeting, however, other examples of problematic commercial solar permit and inspection times and fees were discussed, and the City of San José team agreed that much work is needed.  The consensus leaving the meeting was that several changes would be made to the commercial solar permit process, including a commercial solar permit checklist, with the overall goal of making the process cheaper, simpler and more predictable -- for all parties. This exciting collaboration between local government and private industry is integral to our industry’s success.  Representing the 10th largest city in the U.S. and the capital of Silicon Valley, the Mayor’s leadership helps to strengthen the clean energy economy in California.  This leadership is as important as ever as San Jose and our state move away from fossil fuels and towards clean air, local jobs, and economic growth driven by local clean energy development.