V.I. must streamline solar-permitting process
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Solar seems to be on everyone's mind these days as we brace for the 19 percent increase in the cost of electricity. As more people opt to "go solar," the more important it becomes for DPNR and WAPA to streamline the permitting process.
Germany's solar permitting process is one that the Virgin Islands should strive to emulate. Here is what the permitting process looks like in Germany:
A German family got a 4.6 kW PV array installed and interconnected to their roof eight days after calling a solar installer for the first time. The homeowner had a proposal from the installer within eight hours. The installer called the utility the morning of the installation to request an interconnect that afternoon. The installer called at 10 a.m., the utility came and installed two new meters and approved the interconnect at 2:37 p.m. - the same day. The online registration of the PV system with Federal Grid agency and approval of the feed-in tariff took five minutes. This is according to the Sept. 9, 2012 issue of Renewable Energy World.com.
By comparison, here in the Virgin Islands the same process can take from six weeks to four months. This long lag time between when people purchase a renewable energy system and when they can turn it on puts home and business owners in double financial jeopardy. Not only do they have to continue to pay their high electric bill until the permits clear and they are allowed to activate the system, but they also have to pay for the loan they took out to finance the system.
In these difficult economic times this should be unacceptable to our government agencies and to the governor and should be corrected immediately.
If we aspire to improve the Virgin Islands permitting process for renewable energy system so it functions more like the German system, then there are a number of things we can do immediately to move in this direction:
First, DPNR should increase the number of electrical inspectors from one on each island (for all things electrical); one person can only do so much.
Second, DPNR and WAPA should implement a 100% on-line permitting system (down load forms, submittal of forms and documents, payment of fees, receipt of certificates, etc.).
Third, implement the coordination and sharing of forms, documents, and files between DPNR and WAPA (duplicate forms and documents are now being requested by these entities, all of which must be presented in person).
Making these improvements will greatly reduce the "double financial jeopardy" now being experienced by residents of the Virgin Islands and will speed the territory's transition to renewable energy.
- Kelly Gloger is managing partner of Solar Delivered.