Colorado Solar Permit Fees Likely to Decrease

As this blog has noted numerous times, it isn’t always easy to get a solar or wind project constructed.  In fact, as we’ve discussed before, often one of the most expensive impediments to a project’s development is the local and state permitting process.  The Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) puts a number on this expense, stating that permitting costs can add about $2,516 per U.S. residential installation and can easily exceed $100,000+ for large scale installations.

As it turns out, the state of Colorado has been, until recently, one of the worst offenders when it comes to tacking on substantial state and local permitting fees to renewable energy projects.  The Vote Solar Initiative and the COSEIA recently teamed up to collect and evaluate information about the current state of permitting in 34 local jurisdictions throughout Colorado.  The resulting study, which was recently released by the two groups, indicated that the average fee for obtaining the necessary local permits in Colorado for a solar project is nearly twice as high, and the approval process can take up to seven times as long, as the national permitting best practices.  The groups point to this result as reinforcing the need for Colorado to adopt a more standardized, streamlined solar permitting practices.

However, there is hope in sight.  Shortly after the study was released, the Colorado State Senate approved legislation that seeks to prevent the state and local governments from charging excessive permit fees and plan review fees to customers installing solar technologies.  The Legislation, entitled the Fair Permit Act (H.B.1199), was sponsored by Rep. Bob Gardner, Sen. Bob Bacon, and Sen. Shawn Mitchell to address these high permit costs and inefficiency.  The legislation now only needs the signature of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to become law.

Specifically, the Act improves transparency in the permit process by requiring the government agency to clearly and individually identify all solar fees and taxes assessed on an invoice, and limits solar permit fees to the government’s actual costs in issuing the permit, not to exceed $500 for a residential installation or $1,000 for a commercial system.

If you have any anecdotes about permitting renewable energy projects in Colorado, or if you’d like more information about permitting projects in general, leave a comment or send me an email at lhagedorn@polsinelli.com.