Permit process clouds solar projects

For the past several years, the solar installation business has been one of the bright spots in an otherwise depressed local construction industry in California. But contractors say cumbersome and inconsistent regulations are undermining the sector's growth and are increasing costs for consumers.

"It's a nightmare," Kevin Hahner, owner of Roseville Solar Electric, said of the myriad permitting rules that solar contractors face. "The problem is every building department is different."

As California races to its goal of adding a million solar roofs by 2018, solar providers say their efforts are being bogged down by a lack of uniform permitting standards, cutbacks at city and county building departments, and costly and arbitrary fees.

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