Solar Permit Numbers Rising Despite Struggling Economy

Despite the still-struggling economy and widespread reports that banks are slow to lend money, more and more county residents are investing in solar photovoltaic, “PV” systems designed to turn sunlight into electricity for their homes.

The County Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) is on pace to issue 1,336 solar PV building permits by the end of the fiscal year in June 2012. That would mark a 36 percent increase over the 981 permits the department issued in 2010/11 — and three times the 433 permits it issued in 08/09 when the economy soured.

Since 2001, when the Board of Supervisors approved waiving building permit and plan check fees for residential solar PV, the County has provided a financial boost to residents in the hope of encouraging investment in green renewable energy.

“The increasing number of solar permits issued despite the struggling economy illustrates that county residents also want energy independence,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts, who recommended the fee-waiver in 2001. “It also shows just how much potential our region has to become a leader in green, renewable energy.”

The Sierra Club named San Diego County one of the five “friendliest” jurisdictions for solar power in Southern California in a 2009 ranking of more than 250 jurisdictions.

California has the most aggressive renewable energy plans in the United States. Earlier this year Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that will require utility companies to generate a third of all electrical power by 2020 through renewable sources such as solar and wind power.

The California Energy Commission reports that about 15 percent of the state’s energy is now generated by renewable sources.

A study released last month funded by the Solar Energy Industries Association, a solar trade group, said that in 2011 California accounted for more than one out of every four solar jobs in the United States.

Gig Conaughton is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact