21080.35: Rooftop Solar CEQA Exemption

On October 4, 2011, Governor Brown signed SB 226 (Simitian).  Among other changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (Public Resources Code, Sections 21000 and following), that bill created a statutory exemption for rooftop solar projects. That provision will go into effect on January 1, 2012.

The text of that new exemption is as follows:

21080.35. (a) Except as provided in subdivision (d), this division does not apply to the installation of a solar energy system on the roof of an existing building or at an existing parking lot.

(b) For the purposes of this section, the following terms mean the following:

(1) “Existing parking lot” means an area designated and used for parking of vehicles as of the time of the application for the solar energy system and for at least the previous two years.

(2) “Solar energy system” includes all associated equipment. Associated equipment consists of parts and materials that enable the generation and use of solar electricity or solar-heated water, including any monitoring and control, safety, conversion, and emergency responder equipment necessary to connect to the customer’s electrical service or plumbing and any equipment, as well as any equipment necessary to connect the energy generated to the electrical grid, whether that connection is onsite or on an adjacent parcel of the building and separated only by an improved right-of-way. “Associated equipment” does not include a substation.

(c) (1) Associated equipment shall be located on the same parcel of the building, except that associated equipment necessary to connect the energy generated to the electrical grid may be located immediately adjacent to the parcel of the building or immediately adjacent to the parcel of the building and separated only by an improved right-of-way.

(2) Associated equipment shall not occupy more than 500 square feet of ground surface and the site of the associated equipment shall not contain plants protected by the Native Plant Protection Act (Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 1900) of Division 2 of the Fish and Game Code).

(d) This section does not apply if the associated equipment would otherwise require one of the following:

(1) An individual federal permit pursuant to Section 401 or 404 of the federal Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. Sec. 1341 or 1344) or waste discharge requirements pursuant to the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act (Division 7 (commencing with Section 13000) of the Water Code).

(2) An individual take permit for species protected under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. Sec. 1531 et seq.) or the California Endangered Species Act (Chapter 1.5 (commencing with Section 2050) of Division 3 of the Fish and Game Code).

(3) A streambed alteration permit pursuant to Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 1600) of Division 2 of the Fish and Game Code.

(e) This section does not apply if the installation of a solar energy system at an existing parking lot involves either of the following:

(1) The removal of a tree required to be planted, maintained, or protected pursuant to local, state, or federal requirements, unless the tree dies and there is no requirement to replace the tree.

(2) The removal of a native tree over 25 years old.

(f) This section does not apply to any transmission or distribution facility or connection.