Mayor Eric Garcetti today announced new initiatives at the Department of Building and Safety that will reduce costs for Los Angeles residents installing solar photovoltaic systems at their homes, including making permits available online and having Building and Safety inspectors verify requirements on behalf of the Fire Department.
"My back to basics agenda for Los Angeles is about reforming City Hall to make it easier for Angelenos to take action on our most important priorities – and installing solar panels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions is one my top priorities," said Mayor Garcetti. "The work done by the Department of Building and Safety, together with ongoing customer service improvements for solar customers underway at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, will cut costs and help create local jobs in the City’s growing solar installation industry."
According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, solar panels and other hardware account for less than half of the cost of a typical residential solar system, and reducing permitting time can shave as much as $900 off the cost of an installation.
Over the past year, there has been a strong demand for residential solar systems, with an average of approximately 400 applications each month, or 20 per business day. To effectively and efficiently handle the demand, LADBS collaborated with leading solar installers to design an easy-to-use online system. Contractors can now visit www.ladbs.org to obtain instant online permits for standard solar systems up to 10kW for single-family homes and duplexes, which make up the vast majority of installations.
Since the beginning of a pilot phase in July, LADBS has successfully issued more than 250 permits through the new system. Currently, the online system can process 75% of all solar photovoltaic permits for single-family homes and duplexes; by the end of the year, it will be expanded to handle additional technologies and will be able process 95% of those permits.
"Going solar in Los Angeles just got a whole lot cheaper and easier," said Jim Cahill, Regional Vice President of SolarCity, the largest residential solar installation company in Los Angeles. "Administrative innovations like this can save the City, solar customers and the industry significant costs. We applaud the Mayor for his leadership and the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety for investing significant resources into the development of this online permit portal, which represents a best practice for other jurisdictions to adopt."
The Department of Building and Safety has also enhanced staff training on solar photovoltaic system inspections and Fire Department requirements, eliminating an additional review. A similar expansion of training and moving solar inspections from a boutique to a standard service is underway at the Department of Water and Power and is expected to result in reduced times for solar system interconnection to the electricity grid.
There are approximately 13,000 residential solar photovoltaic systems with a total capacity of 111 megawatts currently installed in the City of Los Angeles. That amount is expected to triple by the end of 2016.