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Solar Firms Frustrated  
User currently offlineKen777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 8469 posts, RR: 9
Posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 1611 times:

Talk about a frustrating read.

Quote:
Ken Button, the president of Verengo Solar Plus, a residential solar panel installer in Orange, Calif., says his company — and his industry — are being strangled by municipal red tape.

Fifteen Verengo employees, Mr. Button said, are dedicated solely to researching and tailoring permit applications to meet the bureaucratic idiosyncrasies of the dozens of towns in the company’s market. And because most jurisdictions require applications to be submitted in person, Verengo employs two “permit runners” whose only job, Mr. Button said, is to “take those permit packs and physically drive them around, stand in line, and pay the fees.”

“We have 50 different permitting authorities within 50 miles of our office,” Mr. Button said. “They all have different documentation requirements, different filing processes, different fee structures. It’s like doing business in 50 different countries — just in Southern California.”

His lament is being echoed by solar companies across the country.

In a new study, the industry estimates that the permit dance adds an average of $2,500 in costs to each installation, and streamlining things could provide a $1 billion stimulus to the residential and commercial solar power market over the next five years.

.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/20/bu...environment/20permit.html?_r=1&hpw

Adding a cost of $2,500 for each installation is insane. A good comparison? When I was in Australia for the Holidays I saw ads in the paper for a 5 panel solar power system for $1,750. A family member said that one for his house that would take care of the central AC would be around $4,000.

While a lot of people believe in state rights and local control I consider this as one area where national standards and certification should be used. Pity the politicians are too busy playing games to do something that would actually be of value.

26 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineNIKV69 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 1576 times:

Wow especially in CA who proposes to be the leader in Green technology. I wouldn't have expected this. Then again it was a chore to try to recycle a bunch of cans I had. The people elect the local leaders ya know.

User currently offlineKen777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 8469 posts, RR: 9
Reply 2, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 1566 times:

Quoting NIKV69 (Reply 1):
The people elect the local leaders ya know.

And the people elect higher level politicians.

Sadly it seems that all levels are ignorant of the benefits of turning solar energy into a high volume approach at the home level. If we could add solar power to our homes for the same costs as possible in Australia then it would be popular (and affordable) in all areas of the country. Since we can manage to have national standards for a lot of products 9cars being a good one) I don't see any need for thousands of varying standards that do nothing but increase costs.


User currently offlineLAXintl From United States of America, joined May 2000, 26131 posts, RR: 50
Reply 3, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 1562 times:

Whats so special about the solar industry that it should get special treatment, or less oversight?

Each city or county is an independent jurisdiction and employs its own local ordinances that manage things like construction.

Its one of the most basic rights of cityhood to manage the manner and type and construction in each city. What is allowed in one might not be allowed in other, and the citizenry in each is right to dictate how their community will look.

Its wholly naive to think that jurisdictions would adopt similar codes or manage permitting, design, aesthetics, and construction in the same manner.

Anyhow as someone that has looked at both commercial and residential solar, in my view the economics are simply not there in many cases for one of small installations. Regular energy remains cheap, and its the solar guys simply trying use excuses to overcome the difficult sales pitch they have in what has become a very competitive industry with lots of companies.



From the desert to the sea, to all of Southern California
User currently offlinemham001 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 3719 posts, RR: 3
Reply 4, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 1554 times:

Welcome to the construction industry in California. Did it mention they are also required a business license in every small town they sell a system? While their complaints are justified, I don't see why the solar installers should expect any special treatment, they are installing heavy items overhead and handling high voltage. They deserve no special exemptions.

User currently onlineBMI727 From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 15830 posts, RR: 27
Reply 5, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 1538 times:

I'm not seeing how solar panels are being singled out. Don't pretty much all similar sorts of construction have to deal with the same thing?


Why do Aerospace Engineering students have to turn things in on time?
User currently offlineNIKV69 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 1536 times:

Quoting LAXintl (Reply 3):
special
Quoting LAXintl (Reply 3):
get special treatment

Bingo.

[Edited 2011-01-20 10:00:13]

User currently offlineRevelation From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 12938 posts, RR: 25
Reply 7, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 1527 times:

Quoting LAXintl (Reply 3):
Each city or county is an independent jurisdiction and employs its own local ordinances that manage things like construction.

Its one of the most basic rights of cityhood to manage the manner and type and construction in each city. What is allowed in one might not be allowed in other, and the citizenry in each is right to dictate how their community will look.

Its wholly naive to think that jurisdictions would adopt similar codes or manage permitting, design, aesthetics, and construction in the same manner.

Well, you certainly can standardize the paperwork that needs to be submitted while still allowing for individual rules to be applied to said paperwork in order to achieve approval.

And what's bad about allowing contractors to submit documents and fee payments electronically?

Surely that's a win for everyone in terms of efficiency, no?

Quoting mham001 (Reply 4):
While their complaints are justified, I don't see why the solar installers should expect any special treatment, they are installing heavy items overhead and handling high voltage. They deserve no special exemptions.

I don't see where they are asking for any special treatment.

I imagine the article uses the solar industry as an example just because its a relatively high profile industry.

But as for me, I feel energy independence is important, and while I'd be wary of specific permitting relief for the solar industry, I do think incentives should be given for the solar industry.

Germany has given tax breaks to accelerate use of solar energy, so now you see solar farms and solar panels alongside the highways, and with the large market to sell into, German firms are producing world-class solar technology.

Why can't the US be doing the same?

And when push comes to shove, why shouldn't a permit application for a solar installation jump ahead of one for a hot tub installation?



Inspiration, move me brightly!
User currently offlineKen777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 8469 posts, RR: 9
Reply 8, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 1524 times:

Quoting LAXintl (Reply 3):
Its one of the most basic rights of cityhood to manage the manner and type and construction in each city. What is allowed in one might not be allowed in other, and the citizenry in each is right to dictate how their community will look.

While communities may have the right to set various design and size standards there are national standards already established for many of the components that go into a house. Even in the electrical parts.

When it comes to issues like solar panels and weather efficient windows I do believe in national standards. Same with other components that go into a house, like gas ovens and stovetops.

As for the price of electricity, your's may be cheap for you, but that doesn't mean others shouldn't be allowed to make their own decisions. I just believe that we need to tear down the unnecessary costs. If the Aussies can do it then we should be able to also.


User currently offlinemham001 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 3719 posts, RR: 3
Reply 9, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 1495 times:

Quoting Revelation (Reply 7):
Germany has given tax breaks to accelerate use of solar energy, so now you see solar farms and solar panels alongside the highways, and with the large market to sell into, German firms are producing world-class solar technology.

Germany has made a number of high profile energy blunders, I'm not personally impressed. Also, now that those subsidies are gone, the German solar market is dead.
I've owned an off-grid home for almost 30 years, the use of public money for photovoltaic solar panels is a waste. Heavily subsidize electric cars and then it might be a different story. Until then, solar panels are doing nothing to lead this country to energy independence. A total sham.


User currently offlinedfwrevolution From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 1001 posts, RR: 51
Reply 10, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 1481 times:

Quoting Ken777 (Reply 8):
While communities may have the right to set various design and size standards there are national standards already established for many of the components that go into a house. Even in the electrical parts.

When it comes to issues like solar panels and weather efficient windows I do believe in national standards. Same with other components that go into a house, like gas ovens and stovetops.

That's all well and good on the manufacturing side, but there needs to be verification at the local level that stuff is installed correctly.

This article is much ado about nothing, IMHO. Only a handful of people are installing solar PV on their homes. When the rate of instillations pick up appreciably, local regulatory mechanisms will follow suit. The claimed instillation cost of $2,500 is not holding people back when the PV units themselves cost 10x as much.

Quoting Revelation (Reply 7):
But as for me, I feel energy independence is important, and while I'd be wary of specific permitting relief for the solar industry, I do think incentives should be given for the solar industry.

Our electrical utilities are already independent of foreign energy imports. Leave your lights on all night, set your AC at 62, buy the biggest plasma TV; it won't change our energy import situation at all.

The U.S. imports energy - mainly oil - for transportation purposes. Solar power won't change that in the next 25-50 years.


User currently offlineLAXintl From United States of America, joined May 2000, 26131 posts, RR: 50
Reply 11, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 1476 times:

Quoting mham001 (Reply 4):
Did it mention they are also required a business license in every small town they sell a system?

And good thing they do. As you probably know there have been cases of uninsurred and unqualified companies trying to do work. Its very much a consumer protection and safety. Also cities deserve to get their appropriate fees or tax.

Quoting BMI727 (Reply 5):
I'm not seeing how solar panels are being singled out. Don't pretty much all similar sorts of construction have to deal with the same thing?

   Everyone does. You want do have a project, one needs to ensure all the permitting is lined up correctly. No jumping in front of the line, or skipping requirements.

Quoting Revelation (Reply 7):
Well, you certainly can standardize the paperwork that needs to be submitted while still allowing for individual rules to be applied to said paperwork in order to achieve approval.

Its not practical to standardize things like paperwork, as each city has a host differences from insurance needs, to design of projects to knowing about things like if a business or sub-contractors are minorities.

Quoting Revelation (Reply 7):
And what's bad about allowing contractors to submit documents and fee payments electronically? Surely that's a win for everyone in terms of efficiency, no?

Sure but it cost money for cities to establish such online systems.

With tight budgets when/if that can happen is unknown.

Quoting Revelation (Reply 7):
I do think incentives should be given for the solar industry.

There are tons of incentives out there already, mostly in the area of tax incentives or rebates from all levels of government that aid the solar industry.

Quoting Ken777 (Reply 8):
When it comes to issues like solar panels and weather efficient windows I do believe in national standards. Same with other components that go into a house, like gas ovens and stovetops.

Its one thing to set a national standard for safety, its another thing to set national standards of how people can use things.

I'm very glad individual cities can locally manage the application of various things from elevators, to roof tiles, to building design, to colors used, and solar technologies based on local community needs and wishes.



From the desert to the sea, to all of Southern California
User currently offlineKen777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 8469 posts, RR: 9
Reply 12, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 1461 times:

Quoting LAXintl (Reply 11):
Its very much a consumer protection and safety.

When providers pay over $2,500 in local government "protection" one has to wonder if the Mafia wouldn't provide protection at a better price.  
Quoting LAXintl (Reply 11):
Sure but it cost money for cities to establish such online systems.

With tight budgets when/if that can happen is unknown.

Bit quer that every city, town and village needs to re-inven the wheel, software wise. That's a mentality from the '80s.

Quoting LAXintl (Reply 11):
I'm very glad individual cities can locally manage the application of various things from elevators, to roof tiles, to building design, to colors used, and solar technologies based on local community needs and wishes.

Colors I could care less about - that, for some, is a simple lowering of individual freedoms.  

As for, say, roof tiles - they are designated in standards accepted around the country. Not a problem in requiring a 30 year roof over a 20 year roof, if the public wants it.

Elevators I would go for a national standard, with minimum servicing. No problem with a community requiring a higher level of servicing, but as shouldn't allow sub-standard products on the market.

Of course, when you get down to it, the restrictions (legal or government induced financial) can also be looked at as a way of reducing individual freedoms.


User currently offlineLAXintl From United States of America, joined May 2000, 26131 posts, RR: 50
Reply 13, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 1461 times:

Quoting Ken777 (Reply 8):
As for the price of electricity, your's may be cheap for you, but that doesn't mean others shouldn't be allowed to make their own decisions.

Oh, its not me saying energy is cheap, its the way the NPV analysis often does not add up in favor of solar.

Besides seeing lots of residential and commercial projects that don't work, I know a local city that recently wrested with trying and badly wished to do some form of solar on a new municipal building to set a good role model. After a years worth of analysis and all types of creative financing the numbers simply did not work. It would cost more than what the potential return was. Matter of fact if not for the various tax breaks, and rebates I have yet to see a single project here in LA that would stand on its own without the extra incentives.

Personally, I just don't think the technology is there yet. You don't get enough wattage per sq ft. You'd get much more bang for your buck by following LEED design principles in most cases than going out chasing after solar at the moment in my experience.



From the desert to the sea, to all of Southern California
User currently offlineKen777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 8469 posts, RR: 9
Reply 14, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 1453 times:

Quoting LAXintl (Reply 13):
Matter of fact if not for the various tax breaks, and rebates I have yet to see a single project here in LA that would stand on its own without the extra incentives.

Volumes are a factor in establishing price and the more difficult it is to get the panels installed at a lower license cost.

I can easily understand failures with the high government related costs and challenges noted in the article.


User currently offlinemham001 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 3719 posts, RR: 3
Reply 15, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 1422 times:

Quoting LAXintl (Reply 11):
And good thing they do. As you probably know there have been cases of uninsurred and unqualified companies trying to do work. Its very much a consumer protection and safety. Also cities deserve to get their appropriate fees or tax.

Business licenses do nothing to insure anything except generate revenue for each town. Anybody with a DBA (fictitious name) can go to city hall and buy a business license. Contracting qualifications and insurance are handled by the State Contracting License Board.

Quoting LAXintl (Reply 11):
Its not practical to standardize things like paperwork, as each city has a host differences from insurance needs, to design of projects to knowing about things like if a business or sub-contractors are minorities.

Minority ownership has no relevance in residential construction.


User currently offlineracko From Germany, joined Nov 2001, 4857 posts, RR: 20
Reply 16, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 1421 times:

Quoting mham001 (Reply 9):
the German solar market is dead.


If by "dead" you mean "doing very, very well", then you are spot on. In 2010 the installed capacity in Germany increased by 70% (10.000 MW to 17.000 MW).


User currently offlinemham001 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 3719 posts, RR: 3
Reply 17, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 1401 times:

Quoting racko (Reply 16):
If by "dead" you mean "doing very, very well", then you are spot on. In 2010 the installed capacity in Germany increased by 70% (10.000 MW to 17.000 MW).

Don't expect that to last. The solar industry is now scrambling to find the next great give-away....


PV markets: Searching for the next Germany

January 7, 2011 - As Germany prepares to wind down its red-hot solar subsidies, a new study by Lux Research looks at several regions that could step in to fill the void, and who shows the most promise -- from "top targets" to "fast burners."

Germany has long been held up as the gold standard for its governmental support of solar energy, and it represents roughly half the global market for solar components. But the country is dialing back its subsidy programs and entering a period of slower growth, so everyone in the PV system chain -- component suppliers, project developers, and investors -- are scanning the horizon (and globe) for new markets
http://www.electroiq.com/index/displ.../2011/1/pv-markets__searching.html


User currently offlineltbewr From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 13195 posts, RR: 15
Reply 18, posted (3 years 11 months 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 1333 times:

In many places in the USA, not just in California, local control of zoning, construction and the like creates many conflicts. Part of it is to conrtol what is built so the community keeps a certain look, especially as to 'historic' structures and neighborhoods as well as protect those in the community who do such work to give them an advantage. Part of it is to keep out fly-by-night companies. It is also a way for a communtiy to make money by requiring liceses, fees for inspections and so on to help their revenues.

User currently offlineracko From Germany, joined Nov 2001, 4857 posts, RR: 20
Reply 19, posted (3 years 11 months 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 1299 times:

Quoting mham001 (Reply 17):
Don't expect that to last. The solar industry is now scrambling to find the next great give-away....

The aid had already been reduced last year and it was still the best year so far, and the aid has just been cut again - with the approval of the solar industry.


User currently offlineSuperfly From Thailand, joined May 2000, 40066 posts, RR: 74
Reply 20, posted (3 years 11 months 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 1296 times:

Quoting LAXintl (Reply 3):
Whats so special about the solar industry that it should get special treatment, or less oversight?

Because Hollywood celebs like it.

Quoting mham001 (Reply 4):
I don't see why the solar installers should expect any special treatment,

Don't tell them that.   

Quoting mham001 (Reply 4):
They deserve no special exemptions.

  

Quoting BMI727 (Reply 5):
I'm not seeing how solar panels are being singled out. Don't pretty much all similar sorts of construction have to deal with the same thing?

Yes they do.



Bring back the Concorde
User currently offlineallrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2236 posts, RR: 5
Reply 21, posted (3 years 11 months 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 1267 times:

Quoting Ken777 (Thread starter):
When I was in Australia for the Holidays I saw ads in the paper for a 5 panel solar power system for $1,750. A family member said that one for his house that would take care of the central AC would be around $4,000.

There are all sorts of subsidies for solar in Australia. In NSW the state government mandated the payment of a 60c/kW hour tariff for gross electricity generated (ie all your PV output rather than your net contribution to the grid) for a period of 7 years. At that rate other electricity consumers are subsidising the owners of the solar panels. That offer is now down to 20c/kWh for new signups. The price of electricity has jumped greatly in Australia in the past year and continues to rise, so solar is actually quite attractive - at the higher rate the payoff time can be quite short.

Thankfully we got the higher rate when we signed up. Even spent a little extra on purchasing Australian made solar panels (Silex Solar) as some of my ex-fellow students work on solar cell research, though I can't justify the additional cost on economic grounds.

Unfortunately, I've been told by colleagues involved in electric grid research that residential users are small fish when it come to usage, so to really make a difference in a country where most electricity comes from coal, we need industry to play its part. There are more efficient ways of generating this electricity than solar pv, but I th9ink many install it for residential use as a statement that they want to make a difference - it's very frustrating to have our governments dithering and failing to make sensible decisions for the future (I know, let's allow another coal fired power station to be built... no, we won't even consider the still-polluting-but-vastly-better-gas).

At least the installation of residential solar pv systems is largely out of the hands of local government, which seems to be the problem in California. Only federal and state legislation as far as I know.



Applying insanity to normality
User currently offlinewindy95 From United States of America, joined Dec 2008, 2750 posts, RR: 8
Reply 22, posted (3 years 11 months 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 1238 times:

Quoting Ken777 (Thread starter):
While a lot of people believe in state rights and local control I consider this as one area where national standards and certification should be used. Pity the politicians are too busy playing games to do something that would actually be of value.

e it cannot be a very good product.


How about leaving the Goverment totally out of it?? imagine that. How much would that save on the cost of doing business. And stop giving subsidies. If something needs subsidies to surviv



OMG-Obama Must Go
User currently offlineKen777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 8469 posts, RR: 9
Reply 23, posted (3 years 11 months 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 1229 times:

Quoting windy95 (Reply 22):
How about leaving the Goverment totally out of it?? imagine that. How much would that save on the cost of doing business. And stop giving subsidies. If something needs subsidies to surviv

I'm a strong believer in the government establishing standards for various products. The FDA is a pretty good example of government oversight that reduces risks for the population. Remember Thalidomide? That one drug pushed government reviews and approvals into high gear.

Same with the FAA. Continual increasing standards has resulted in continual increasing safety.

As far as the home industry goes I really like the idea of national standards on gas & electrical devices. And as we are seeing the benefits of energy reducing construction I have no problem with minimum standards there as well.

As far as subsidies, the corporate world gets far more help (generally in the tax code) than the average individual and yet some people say they are over taxed. Subsidies can focus on motivating action at a national level and I really don't have a problem with that. Especially when it improves the lives of the average American and supports employment.


User currently offlineRevelation From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 12938 posts, RR: 25
Reply 24, posted (3 years 11 months 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 1230 times:

I have to wonder if we're all reading the same article.

From the thread starter:

Quoting Ken777 (Thread starter):
Fifteen Verengo employees, Mr. Button said, are dedicated solely to researching and tailoring permit applications to meet the bureaucratic idiosyncrasies of the dozens of towns in the company’s market. And because most jurisdictions require applications to be submitted in person, Verengo employs two “permit runners” whose only job, Mr. Button said, is to “take those permit packs and physically drive them around, stand in line, and pay the fees.”

Note the word solar does not appear in this quote once.

Many of us have knee jerk reactions (me too) to that word, but the core of the article is about how inefficient government is impacting business. This new business has no problem identifying the problem, whereas ones who have been dealing with it for a while are just so used to dealing with it that it no longer registers to them, but of course they too would benefit from increased governmental efficiency.

Quoting mham001 (Reply 9):
solar panels are doing nothing to lead this country to energy independence
Quoting dfwrevolution (Reply 10):
The U.S. imports energy - mainly oil - for transportation purposes. Solar power won't change that in the next 25-50 years.

Yes, at this point that is true, but the real question is what are we doing now so that we move away from fossil fuels and thus gain energy independence in the future? Some write here that we already do things to help, but it doesn't seem to be having any impact thus it's just not enough. On the other hand, on my last trip to Germany solar cells were everywhere, and no doubt that their industry and their people are moving up the learning curve much faster than we are.

Quoting LAXintl (Reply 11):
Quoting Revelation (Reply 7):
And what's bad about allowing contractors to submit documents and fee payments electronically? Surely that's a win for everyone in terms of efficiency, no?

Sure but it cost money for cities to establish such online systems.

With tight budgets when/if that can happen is unknown.

And what about the cost of the employees (their salaries, their pensions, their health care, all coming from tax dollars) who takes the paper documents and scan them into the computer, when they could have just taken them electronically to begin with?

And what about the cost of the employees who take the cash or checks or credit cards and have to remit payment to the bank, when it all could have been done electronically?

Quoting LAXintl (Reply 11):
Its not practical to standardize things like paperwork, as each city has a host differences from insurance needs, to design of projects to knowing about things like if a business or sub-contractors are minorities.

No, it's quite practical. The vast bulk of the information each municipality wants is in common, and the real problem is that each municipality asks for the same information in different ways. What is not practical is the current system.

Again, from the thread starter:

Quoting Ken777 (Thread starter):
“We have 50 different permitting authorities within 50 miles of our office,” Mr. Button said. “They all have different documentation requirements, different filing processes, different fee structures. It’s like doing business in 50 different countries — just in Southern California.”

It's a very basic exercise in computer science these days to come up with a common web portal that could gather information in a common format, and each muncipality could decide which information they want the web portal to gather for them. In fact it'd make the municipalities more efficient, since there'd be a common training program for their workers, and much of the data could be validated by the computer instead of by humans.

Quoting Ken777 (Reply 12):
Bit queer that every city, town and village needs to re-inven the wheel, software wise. That's a mentality from the '80s.

Indeed.



Inspiration, move me brightly!
25 sccutler : What a crock. Solar construction is no different than any other electrical construction, or (for that matter) construction of all kinds. You have to g
26 connies4ever : In fact some analysts have concluded that Germany has, net, lost jobs due to its' coddling of the PV sector. Move to Ontario. The PV producers are ma
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