Last April, the Governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, issued an executive order to manage carbon emissions. One major part of that order makes adding solar panels more simple and affordable to homeowners. Additionally, the Building Code Council in Washington made an emergency decision to remove some impediments of adding solar panels to a home. Looks like Washington State is serious about solar power.

Making it Easier

Like in many states, adding solar panels to your home in Washington can be a chore, to say the least. There are state and national building codes for adding solar panels and each county enforces these codes in a different way. Some counties consider adding solar panels the same as adding more layers of shingles to your rooftop. In other counties, going solar is a long and complicated process, no matter how simple the solar units are; a structural engineer must review and sign off on a whole new set of plans. That alone adds $800-$2,500 to the total cost. Such cost can negate much of the savings homeowners hope to get by going solar in the first place. And that’s if you can even find someone to install solar panels. Many solar installers in Washington, frustrated with trying to navigate the complicated local permit systems, refused to work in certain counties altogether.

Washington’s Building Code Council voted unanimously to change the state law to allow simple rooftop solar power systems to be installed without requiring the plans reviewed by a structural engineer. Not only will this move save the homeowner a great deal of money, but it will also do away with the eight weeks of review time that most homeowners experienced. The new, simpler law went into effect on July 1, but only temporarily. In November the Council is expected to make the rule permanent, after a public hearing and a formal ruling on the change. The entire simplification process was a direct result of Governor Inslee’s executive order.

A Step in the Right Direction

This change is just the first step in making access to renewable energy in Washington more affordable and convenient. These changes won’t save the world by this weekend, but they are a step in the right direction. Most people are reluctant to change and make their decisions based on convenience. The easier and more efficient it is to add solar panels to a home the more we will see them used. By removing a few strips of red tape, Washington State has made it easier for its citizens to live a more efficient and sustainable lifestyle.

How much extra effort, money and time would you be willing to put into installing or having solar panels installed on top of your home?