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California Solar Permit New Laws Regarding Fees

Solar Permits in California

Some very positive new changes have come from lawmakers with regards to new California solar permit fees.  At the start of 2012, the days of massive permit fees by local municipalities as well as other local governments are no longer for solar projects.  Not only is this great news for the planet, but it is also great news for homeowners, but this is great news for businesses as well who want solar energy.

California Solar Permit Fees

  • Residential solar projects can now expect fees to be no larger than $500 per system, plus $15 dollars for every kW over 15kW
  • Business solar projects can now expect fees to be no larger than $1000 per system, plus $7 for every kW between 51 kW and 250 kW, plus $5 for every kW over 250 kW in size

This new law makes life so much easier compared to the varying California solar permit fees and permitting costs that used to exist prior to 2012 in the state of California.  Now, everyone who is interested in solar power will be able to estimate the costs and benefits of a new PV system almost down to the penny.  Before, it was always a guessing game as to what the additional expenses would turn out to be.  If you add in the additional benefits that have started to happen in the solar panel markets around the world with prices continuing to decline, solar is once again becoming more favorable.  Especially for enthusiasts who are looking at this form of energy production with a long term goal in mind.

California Solar Permit Fees

The details of the regulations can be found at the DSIRE website under California’s New Solar Permitting Fees.

Details of the California Assembly Bill 1801 are also available to read online.

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Back to Back Neighbors with Solar Houses in Berkeley, CA

How about a big two thumbs up, and make it your green thumb for some neighbors living in Berkeley, California.  It’s such a great site to see not only one, but two houses next to each other that are both making their own electricity from the most powerful thing known to man, the sun.  Although you might be living in a city or town somewhere in America where solar power is relatively new, or maybe even unheard of, that’s just not the case for the residents of Berkeley.

Berkeley California Solar Houses

two neighbors with solar in Berkeley

Long known as a hippie idea, or tree-hugger initiative, PV solar cells used to generate kilo watt hours is still going strong.  And with the help of higher oil prices and higher energy costs slamming the economy over and over again, more and more “non tree hugger” types are looking into alternative energy ideas.  Call it green technology, call it doing something good for the earth, call it whatever you want, but this type of energy is here to stay.  And it is saving some lucky homeowners who are used to paying very high PG&E bills quite a bit of money.

So what if the street view of solar cells makes the houses look ugly, that’s usually not a concern anymore from neighbors.  Instead, neighbors are jumping on the band wagon and figuring out how to get solar panels installed themselves.  If you really are worried what your neighbors are going to say about you going green and getting panels on your roof, just go and sack up and ask them.  You’ll be surprised how happy they are to help you out and say “go for it”.  That was the case with these neighbors.  And, by the looks of the number of panels on the roof, it is quite possible that they are saving roughly $200-250 dollars per month off their combined electric bills.  That’s great news!


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Stanford University Nanoscale Science Engineering Solar Panel System

The huge pv solar electric system on the roof of Stanford’s nanoscale building is huge. This solar system is several hundred solar panels and more than 50kw in size.


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Review: 3.5kw Solar Panel System for California House

3.5 KW Solar System Review of Energy Output, Size, and Electricity Savings

Solar Electric System Size:

  • 20 solar panels
  • 175 watts per solar panel
  • Total System size 3.5 kw DC

Sunlight hours per day:

  • 5 average sunlight hours per day during the year
  • absolutely no shade from trees or other buildings
  • angle to the sun is not ideal, however it does not affect the equation very much

Electricity Output and Production Amounts in Kilo Watt Hours (kWh)

  • 14.875 kwh per day per year
  • 450 kwh per month

Electricity Savings Each Month and Year with a 3.5 kWh solar system

  • $120 of electricity savings per month
  • about $$1500 of electricity savings on average per year which will increase as electricity becomes more expensive in the future

Expected Costs of 3.5kwh Solar system:

  • average cost per watt = $7.50/watt
  • Total Cost: $26,250 3.5kWh solar system
  • Incentive amounts from solar federal tax credit of 30% = $7,875
  • Net Solar Cost after tax credit: $18,375
  • it is unknown what the local solar rebates were for this project

Video of the 3.5 kw Solar System on this California Home:

Pictures of this house with its 3.5 kw solar panels on the mounting system above the roof:

3.5 kw solar system above roof

3.5 kw solar system above roof

Summary of Solar System:

This would be a very good long term investment into renewable energy sources such as solar, especially if this system qualified for the typical California solar rebate of $6,000-$8,000.  As the electricity prices continue to rise in the state, it will turn into an even better investment for the future as well.  The fact that the system is mounted above the roof of the house also ensures that there is absolutely no shade to worry about blocking the solar cells.

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Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD): SolarShares Program

Details of a Large Scale Community Solar Program:

SMUD has long been a leader in solar energy deployment. The SolarShares program allows customers to purchase output from a solar peoject on a monthly basis. Rather than own the system, SMUD contracted with a solar developer, enXco, to build, own, and maintain a 1-MW system. EnXco sells the power to SMUD under a twenty year power purchase agreement. The electricity from the system is fed directly into the grid and SMUD uses the solar generated electricity as the basis for its SolarShares program.
Customers pay a fixed monthly fee, based on both the amount of PV to which they want to subscribe (from .5 to kW) and their average electricity consumption. In order to encourage conservation, SMUD makes the SolarShares less expensive for their customers who use less electricity. Once enrolled, a customer is locked in at the fixed monthly fee, for as long as they wish to participate. They receive monthly kWh credits for teh estimated output of their solar subscription. Although customers currently pay a premium for solar energy, the effective rate for soalr is locked in when they enroll, which maintains the ability of solar to act as a hedge against future price increases. The program is fully subscribed, with approximately 700 residential SolarShares customers. Customers can join a waiting list and enroll with current customers drop or move out of the territory. SMUD is making plans for expansion of up to 25 Mega Watts over the next few years.
Details of the Program:
The solar system is 1 MW (mega watt) in size
The renewable energy credits (REC’s) are retained by the local utility company SMUD.

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Ideal Direction for Solar Panels in California

Calculating The Best Solar Angle for California:

In order to figure out what the best angle to tilt your solar panels, you must first figure out your latitude.  Here are some different latitude numbers for cities in the state of California:

  • Latitude in San Francisco: 37.75 North
  • Latitude in Los Angeles: 34.05 North
  • Latitude in San Diego: 32.71 North
  • Latitude in San Jose: 37.34 North
  • Latitude of Bakersfield: 35.37 North
  • Latitude of Eureka: 40.80 North
  • Latitude of Redding: 40.58 North
  • Latitude of Sacramento: 38.58 North

Use Latitude to Calculate the Best Fixed Solar Panel Angle in California:

The United States Department of Energy has long said that for fixed plate solar panels, it is relatively easy to calculate the most productive solar panel angle you want to point to.  The angle is based on your latitude minus 15 degrees.  For example, with this logic, in the Bay Area near San Francisco you would want to tilt solar panels at 22 or 23 degrees.  A solar panel tilt of 19 degrees will work best in Los Angeles.  Once again, this is if you do not have any auto-adjusting or pivoting solar panels which change their angle throughout the year or during the day.

Changing the Direction of Your Solar Panels in California Throughout the Year:

To further gain electricity production from solar panels, many people living in California have decided to modify their solar systems throughout the year.  There is a definite gain of energy production if you increase the tilt during the winter months, and the opposite is true during the summer months.  You want to be careful when you start adjusting your solar panel tilt for several reasons.  The main reason is that you need to be up to date on which direction the panels are facing during the year.  As easy as it sounds to make panel adjustments depending on the season, too many people forget to change the panels and end up losing out on energy production.  Another thing to be careful of is to not disturb any of the system wiring that is in place.  A very minor mistake with adjusting solar panels can lead to a few days of downtime which always means energy loss.

How Much Money Can Be Saved with The Ideal Solar Panel Direction?

To determine how much of a positive effect your solar system’s panels provide is going to depend on how ideal your panels tilt is.  This is just one of the factors though.  You need to also heavily consider shade on the solar panels.  As important as the tilt angle can be, and it is important, if you have high amounts of shade hitting your panels, the whole system might be close to worthless.  But, to give a rough idea, if you properly tilt your panels throughout the year, you could very easily be looking at a 20% increase in electricity production in California cities.  The production increase might even be higher if you are in a state with a much larger latitude like our northern neighbors.

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Examples of Solar Electric Panel Homes in California

Solar Power has been the most popular over the past ten years in the state of California. There are several reasons for that. Some of the reasons are due to the high cost of electricity in California, other reasons are that CA created several great solar buying incentives a few years ago. And others would argue that there is so much solar in California because that is where the tree huggers come from.

Here are some examples of solar power systems currently working and producing electricity on homes in California.

24 Electric Solar Panels System

24 panel electric solar system

This is a nice little 24 solar panel system on a roof facing south west on a home near Santa Cruz, California.

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