Frustrated solar panel installer says it's time to cut the red tape
Hans Wekking says a single set of regulations for solar panels in B.C. would save homeowners time and money
A small business owner who installs solar panels on people's properties is frustrated that so many municipalities have different sets of rules when it comes to issuing permits.
Hans Wekking — who runs Wekking Electric — says his clients could be spared all kinds of bureaucratic headaches if there was a streamlined set of guidelines for the entire province.
"Two out of three permits I've had with the City of Surrey have been stopped," Wekking said.
"We have a client who had to make nine separate trips to city hall with his engineer to finally get the permit released."
One of Wekking's most frustrated customers is Valarie Nickel, who bought a home in Surrey nearly a year ago with her husband.
She says she's been trying since December to get a permit to install solar panels in her yard.
"It's an adversarial process," she said.
"We're happy to pay our taxes and be good citizens but this is just one problem after another."
Nickel says the city notified her in March that she wouldn't be given a permit because there was an issue with a deck that was built in 2011.
"We'd like to address the issues with the deck but why didn't they tell me this six months ago when we first applied?" she said.
"We're now $3,000 into the process. Why wouldn't this come up during our first visit to city hall?"
'To be honest, we don't see any urgency with this'
The city says there are safety concerns that come with solar panels, whether they're placed on the roof of a home or mounted on the ground.
"We don't want the panels flying all over the place when the wind comes, so they have to be anchored," said Surrey's Building Division Manager Mehran Nazeman.
"Some of the applications they had in the past in Vancouver, there were problems. You have to make sure the roof is capable of taking the wind flow, because they're not always flat on the roof."
Nazeman says permits are usually issued within three to four weeks but sometimes people have to wait longer.
"To be honest, we don't see any urgency with this," he said.
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"We have more urgent items to deal with than to issue these permits. We are trying our best to simplify the process in terms of reviewing but we have a waiting time."
Nazeman says they're also working on a flat permit fee to lower costs, which will likely be rolled out in the coming months.
Wekking says in an ideal system, all regulation would fall under the provincial government instead of different municipalities.
"In the United States and in the rest of the world, the solar industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. It could be the same here. Let's get a B.C.-wide mandate so that everyone is playing by the same rules."