Many recent changes, everything from better financial incentives to increased public interest, have contributed to the significant growth of the small wind industry over the past few years. Although these changes have been for the betterment of the industry, there are still many obstacles slowing and, in some cases, preventing the installation of small wind turbines. These issues were discussed at the Small Wind Workshop held in Davis, CA in October 2008. Permitting was identified as a major hurdle to small wind installations, but one that we felt could be overcome with the appropriate steps. The first step was to document the common issues and the extent in which they affect installations.
Following the workshop, the Collaborative conducted two studies meant to identify some of the permitting issues and to shed light on the wide-range of permitting fees. The findings presented in these two reports may help motivate statewide changes that would encourage local jurisdictions to adopt more reasonable permitting requirements and fees. The hope is to make the permitting process from county to county more straightforward and to support safe, cost effective, and environmentally responsible installations of small wind systems throughout the state.
The Collaborative conducted a survey of installers of small wind energy conversion systems in California. The goal was to document the challenges faced by many of the installers as they attempted to acquire permits from local jurisdictions for small wind installations. The work was based on recommendations from participants in a small wind workshop. The Collaborative contacted over 25 installers within California and asked them to participate in the study. Nine installers returned surveys. The findings from the returned surveys are presented in this report. The most common issues were inconsistent regulations, high permitting fees, and a lengthy processing time.
The Collaborative performed a study reviewing the permitting fees for small wind turbines in California counties. This work was based on recommendations from participants in a small wind turbine workshop and short courses. The Collaborative reviewed fees for all 58 counties. Less than half have standard requirements for small wind systems. The range of fixed fees varied widely, from as little as $0 to as much as $10,000. The Collaborative recommended setting a permit fee ceiling of $1,000. This figure is based on fees from several counties that adopted requirements in accordance with the former California Assembly Bill 1207. The fee recommendation is considered reasonable in comparison to lower solar permitting fees.
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