But even though the “hard” costs keep going down, solar carries a number of “soft” costs that have remained fairly consistent over the years. No matter how much equipment prices drop, solar customers still pay a premium for things like permitting and inspections.
And because building codes very from region to region (even within San Diego), there is no uniform, streamlined process to receive solar installation approvals from local city governments. According to Deputy Director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association, Kelsea Jones,
“From Chico to Chula Vista, we’re talking about the exact same product, design, and installation, yet many building departments require Byzantine permits as if they are installing a nuclear power plant up there.”
But all this could change if Assembly Bill (A.B.) 2188 passes the California State Senate at the end of August.
How Can A.B. 2188 Help Reduce Solar Installation Costs?
If approved, A.B. 2188 could streamline municipal permitting and inspections by standardizing the entire process. This will not only help reduce the “soft” costs outlined above, but it will also reduce installation times as well. Just imagine how much money you won’t have to pay to the utility company if your solar installation goes up a few months earlier.
But how significant are these cost reductions?
According to a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, streamlining the permitting process could shave off an extra $1,000+ for residential solar installations. And according to a 2012 US Department of Energy report, inconsistencies in the permitting process can cost residential solar customers as much as $2,500 in unnecessary charges.
When you consider that the average solar installation costs about $10,000 in California, A.B. 2188 could reduce the total installation price by up to 25%.
That’s pretty amazing.
Should You Wait for Solar Installation Costs to Fall?
If Governor Brown signs A.B. 2188 into law, your solar installation will definitely be much cheaper. So should you wait until August 31 to see what happens next?
Maybe – maybe not. It really depends on how long you’re willing to wait. Consider the following:
- It may take a while for a streamlined permitting process to go into effect. Even if the governor passes the law tomorrow, it could take months (or years) before installation costs actually fall.
- You also need to factor in the utility bills you’ll have to pay during that wait. If going solar saves you $200 a month in electricity charges, then waiting an extra year to go solar would cost you $2,400 (or 12 months times $200).
- The bill might not pass at all. There are definitely detractors who don’t want to see permitting and inspections become simpler, easier, or cheaper. So you might end up waiting for nothing.
Anyway, it’s an exciting prospect. It would certainly make our own jobs much easier here at Sunline Energy. Because we handle all of the inspections, permits, and paperwork entirely on your behalf, we absolutely welcome any changes that make the entire process easier.
In any event, we’ll keep you posted on future developments.
In the meantime, if you have questions about going solar – or if you want to request a free property inspection – don’t hesitate to contact us.
Schedule your free solar consultation today.