The Impact of City-level Permitting Processes on Residential Photovoltaic Installation Prices and Development Times: An Empirical Analysis of Solar Systems in California Cities

04/11/2013

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is pleased to announce the availability of a new report, “The Impact of City-level Permitting Processes on Residential Photovoltaic Installation Prices and Development Times: An Empirical Analysis of Solar Systems in California Cities.”

Business process or “soft” costs account for well over 50% of the installed price of residential photovoltaic (PV) systems in the United States, so understanding these costs is crucial for identifying PV cost-reduction opportunities. Among these costs are those imposed by city-level permitting processes, which may add both expense and time to the residential PV development process.

Building on previous research, this study evaluates the effect of city-level permitting processes on the installed price of residential PV systems and on the time required to develop and install those systems. The study uses a unique data-set from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Rooftop Solar Challenge Program, which includes city-level permitting process “scores,” plus data from the California Solar Initiative and the U.S. Census. Using multivariate statistical analysis, the study quantifies the price and development-time effects of city-level permitting processes on more than 3,000 PV installations across 44 California cities in 2011.

Results indicate that city-level permitting processes have a substantial effect on average PV installation prices and project development times.

  • PV Installation Prices: The results suggest that cities within our sample with the most favorable permitting practices have average residential PV prices that are $0.27–$0.77/W lower (4%–12% of median PV prices in California) than cities with the most onerous permitting practices.
  • PV Development Times: Though the findings for development times are less robust, results suggest that cities within our sample with the most streamlined permitting practices have average PV development times that are around 24 days shorter (25% of the median development time) than cities with the most onerous permitting practices.

Overall, these findings illustrate the potential price and development-time benefits of streamlining local permitting procedures for PV systems.

We appreciate the support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office.

Final Report
 
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