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City reports huge jump in solar use

Posted: January 14, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 14, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Santa Clarita recorded a 100 percent increase during 2012 in applications for solar power permits — most of them for private homes, city officials said recently.

In fact, “going solar” has become so popular in Santa Clarita that the city has streamlined the permit application process for the firm that most residents choose.

“The city went from issuing 84 permits in 2010 to 252 permits in 2011,” said Damon Letz, assistant city engineer. “By 2012 the number of permits issued more than doubled to 581.”

The number of permits issued in 2012 account for a 3,000 percent increase from 2007, said a spokesman for the city.

The trend in Santa Clarita reflects a statewide increase in photovoltaic permits issued in the past five years, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

But Santa Clarita was named the No. 1 growth solar city in the state between May 2011 and May 2012 by San Francisco-based Sunrun.

Solar permitting is significantly cheaper in Santa Clarita than in other Los Angeles County cities, city officials say.

Building permits for commercial solar projects were $1,700, whereas some L.A. County cities charged an average of $10,000, the city said in a report in early 2012.

“We are expecting photovoltaic technology to continue to improve and more activity to occur,” Letz said.

The company most favored by Santa Clarita residents seeking a solar installation is Verengo, and because of the volume of business it does with the solar-energy provider, Santa Clarita has streamlined the permitting process with the firm.

“We came up with a way they could submit plans directly to the plan checker,” Letz said.

It saves the company time and money by eliminating all the printing costs, reducing or eliminating drives up to the city to submit a plan and return for an approved or revised plan, and gas costs, he said.

Since tailoring the ePlan submission process for Verengo, 131 projects have been reviewed and approved for the company since March 23, 2012, when the customized program was first launched.

The change allows the company to spend more time installing and less time in the permitting process, said Jason Crawford, marketing and economic development manager for the city.



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