Back to top Jump to featured resources
Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States

Local Permitting Makes a Bigger Difference as Solar Gets Cheap

| Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Apr 26, 2013 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

placeholderGoing solar keeps getting cheaper, but most of the cost savings have come from less expensive solar panels.  “Soft costs,” like permitting and inspections, are a rising share of the cost of a solar installation.  Several years ago, these permits could increase the cost of a residential solar project (then around $8.00 per Watt) by 5-10% , highlighted in a 2010 study by Sunrun. But as solar gets cheaper, permitting is going to be a much bigger problem.

A recent analysis by Lawrence Berkeley Labs [pdf] illustrates the benefits of streamlining solar permitting rules: it can cut the cost of a 2011 residential solar project (at $6.00 per Watt) by 5-13%, today’s (at $4.00 per Watt) by 8-19%, and tomorrow’s by as much as 40%!

chart solar cost and permitting 2013

The report confirms the earlier Sunrun study with a statistical analysis of actual solar permitting rules and the impact on final installation costs.  It also lends credence to streamlined permitting schemes (like Vermont‘s) and to the broader efforts to improve solar permitting, like Vote Solar’s Project Permit.


Tags: / / / / /

About John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power. More

Contact John   |   View all articles by John Farrell