The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

One Man's Fight To Cut California Solar Permitting Fees

One of the satisfactions of being a Sierra Club volunteer is knowing that you have helped with some environmental victory. But few volunteers can boast of the achievement of Kurt Newick: two bills were signed into California law that would not have happened without him. They were the outcome of his hard work over seven years (see January-February 2011, page 4), and he helped draft them. Lots of other volunteers were involved, of course, but it was Kurt's initiative, hard work, and expertise that made the laws possible. Kurt notes with appreciation, "There was always someone willing to work with me."

The story goes back to 2005. Kurt, who works for a solar contractor, saw a problem that was discouraging people from installing photovoltaic solar panels. Every city and county charges a permit fee for a new solar system, but in many cases the fees were much greater than the costs involved in issuing the permit–and large enough to be a significant discouragement to homeowners and businesses considering an installation.

Kurt (pictured, left with award) didn’t just grumble–he organized. He worked with the Global Warming and Energy Committee of the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter to conduct a survey of the permit fees for residential solar installations in his chapter, and the committee then publicized the results and encouraged jurisdictions to cut high fees. The results were astounding–lots of cities started lowering their fees.

Kurt and the committee didn’t rest on their laurels. They extended the survey to include the Bay Chapter and several others (for a total of 25 counties), and to include commercial installations. The project depended on Kurt’s hard work–and on his insider’s knowledge of the solar business.

In 2011 state Sen. Mark Leno and Assemblymember Nora Campos  contacted Kurt for advice about statewide policies on the permit fees. They needed to be fair to enable cost-recovery for the cities, yet not so high as to discourage new installations. Kurt worked with legislative staff to craft bills. Along with Sierra Club California senior advocate Jim Metropulos, Kurt provided advice and presented amendments that the lawmakers included in the final bills.

“We were pleased to work with the Sierra Club and Kurt Newick on SB 1222, which helps streamline government bureaucracy to make solar more accessible to consumers,” said Leno. “Kurt’s extensive studies on solar fees statewide were the supporting basis for the bill. Our teamwork led to bipartisan support and will help ensure that the solar industry continues to generate investment and jobs in California.”

Kurt was invited to Sacramento to testify before legislative committees. Kurt comments: “I was impressed with the legislative process. It was important to the lawmakers to make the legislation simple, and fair to all parties.”

The two new laws are:

  • SB 1222 (Leno), which caps PV permit fees for rooftop systems by restricting a city or county from charging more for a solar permit than the estimated reasonable cost of providing the service for which the fee is charged, and providing specific limits on the dollar amount local governments may charge for a PV permit:
    •   residential systems: $500, plus $15 for every kilowatt (kW) over 15 kW;
    •   commercial systems: $1,000 for systems up to 50 kW, plus $7 for every kW between 51 kW and 250
    kW, plus $5 for every kW over 250 kW.
  • AB 1801 (Campos), which requires solar permit fees to be computed based on actual jurisdictional costs and specifically prohibits fees from being computed based on PV-system valuations. This will impact solar permit fees for all sizes and types of solar energy systems.

For more information on the Sierra Club’s solar-permit-fee campaign in California see

This article was orignally published in The Sierra Club Yodeler and was reprinted with permission.

Lead image: superhero via shutterstock.

Untitled Document

Get All the Renewable Energy World News Delivered to Your Inbox - FREE!

Subscribe to Renewable Energy World Magazine and our award-winning e-Newsletter to stay up to date on current news and industry trends.

 Subscribe Now



A Case Study in Energy-Transition Momentum

Tim King South Australia is clearly at the forefront of the global energy transition as it establishes a fast-moving model oth...

Listen Up: Can I Get Solar if my Roof is Shaded?

The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World Rooftop solar panels only work when they are in direct sunlight. So if you have a partially shaded roof, the output o...

US Senate Democrats Unveil Energy Bill That Restores PTC and Extends ITC

Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg Senate Democrats unveiled a bill that would provide more tax credits for renewable energy while killing some tax ince...

US, China Solar PV Players Team Up, Invest $100M in Chile, Uruguay and Japan

Andrew Burger Private equity infrastructure specialist Hudson Clean Energy Partners and Hong Kong-based independent power producer ...


Array Technologies Finalizes Shipments to E.ON’s Maricopa West Solar Project

Array Technologies, Inc. (ATI) has completed DuraTrack® HZ shipments to the 20 MW (ac) ...

Power Engineering and Renewable Energy World Magazines Name Projects of the Year Awards Finalists

Tulsa, Okla. and Nashua, N.H., Oct. 5, 2015 -- The editors of Power Engineering and Ren...

Sun Xtender® Launches New Website at

The newly designed website for Sun Xtender solar batteries is now live on the World Wid...

Canadian Solar Closes Purchase of Ontario Assets from KKR

Canadian Solar Purchased 3 Solar Power Plants Totaling 59.8 MW AC from KKR


energy efficiency

Beyond the Trend: Maximizing the Impact of Your Energy Efficiency Solution

A revolution is happening in the energy sector. From the new regulations pushed out earlier this summer by the EPA’s ...

Why the Solar PV Industry Should Love Geothermal Heat Pumps Pt 2

It’s a marriage made in heaven: Solar PV and Geothermal Heat Pumps Part 2 of a 6-Part Series Prevailing Heati...

The Whirlwind Known As Tradeshow Season 2015

Wow. What a tradeshow season 2015 is turning out to be! Hot on the heels of Intersolar and SPI, next week we’re...



Volume 18, Issue 4


To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:


Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon



Successfully Integrating Solar: A Proactive Approach

•      What does the increasing solar penetrati...

Solar Power Asset Management and Performance

SEIA and SEPA collaborated with industry leaders to present the first ev...

Solar Power Northeast

  From the team that produced Solar Power Southeast and the sol...


Saving Vs. Gaining

Whenever I do a national keynote speech or customized coaching session f...

SPI Brings Out The Best In Solar

Phew…...those cross-country flights sure take a lot out of a guy....

Join us at the New Solar Power Northeast

From the team that produced Solar Power Southeast and the sold out P...


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now