Portland is one of four Oregon jurisdictions that are participating in Northwest Solar Communities (NWSC), a collaborative grant project funded by the US Department of Energy. NWSC involves the state governments of Oregon and Washington, eight local jurisdictions, six electric utilities, and a range of industry partners.
The goal of Northwest Solar Communities is to make solar simpler, faster, and more cost-effective along the I-5 corridor from Bellingham to Ashland. Communities are expected to achieve significant improvements in four issue areas: permitting, planning and zoning, utility interconnection, and financing.
Within NWSC, Portland is seen as a leader among jurisdictions, in large part because of its pioneering efforts to streamline and standardize the solar permitting process for residential installations. This reduces permitting costs, which benefits consumers, solar installers, and the overall solar industry in Portland.
BDS and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) are working together to deliver the grant objectives, which include:
- Revising and updating Residential Solar Program Guide and Prescriptive Checklist.
- Developing History of Solar Access Regulations in Portland report.
- Assisting in development of solar guidance document for Homeowner and Condominium Associations.
- Promoting Portland’s “solar-readiness.” BDS’s Earth Day lobby display about solar was an excellent example of this.
US DOE is particularly interested in encouraging jurisdictions to move to online permitting systems. Portland’s current project to update their permitting system, including encouraging electronic plan submittal and permitting for all projects, is anticipated to come on line winter of 2015/16, and is of great interest to the other participants in NWSC. Early discussions regarding solar permitting have occurred with the project vendor and additional work is to take place over the next year.
For more information about NWSC or solar permitting, please visit www.nwsolarcommunities.org or contact BDS Permitting Services and ask for our solar specialist, either in the Development Service Center or by phone at 503-823-7310.