Low Solar Fees Earn Gilroy High Rank

The first solar-powered homes are rising off Wayland Avenue
Gilroy – The city is at the head of the pack when it comes to low fees on solar-powered energy, according to a new study by the Sierra Club.

The $400 fee to process applications for solar roof panels ranks in the top third of 40 Bay Area cities, according to the study.

Portola Valley’s $50 fee ranked lowest among the surveyed cities, while Millbrae was highest at $1,620. The study recommends a $300 fee as a reasonable price for reviewing applications for solar-powered panels.

In addition to permit fees, the Sierra Club’s Loma Prieta Chapter reviewed the ease of permitting in select cities.

While Gilroy was not among those surveyed on permitting, the city also may have scored well in that area since it recently streamlined the overall permitting process. The new system allows residents and developers working on a porch additions or other small projects to get all the necessary approvals from engineers, planners and other city staff in a single day.

Stan Van Velsor, global warming program coordinator for the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club, said high permit fees and permitting delays work against the promotion of clean energy.

After rebates from the state energy commission, the typical cost to outfit a three-bedroom home with solar panels falls around $18,600, Van Velsor said.

“Installing solar electric systems is relatively expensive compared to other sources – like getting energy from PG&E,” he said. “And if you have a relatively expensive permit fee, that just adds more money.”

The city’s first solar-powered homes are now rising off Wayland Avenue in the north of the city. Christopher Coté, an environmental activist responsible for the project, is pushing the city to incorporate more incentives for eco-friendly homes into its competition for building permits.

“Gilroy is suffering under the worst or next to worst air quality in the Bay Area,” he said. “With regard to the fee, there should be no fee at all.”

To download a copy of the study, visit www.lomaprieta.sierraclub.org/global_warming/gwec.htm.

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