Islamorada waiving some permit fees

The village of Islamorada is waiving building permit fees for residents who want to install solar power or solar water heaters.

The council voted unanimously Dec. 18 to eliminate the fees.

Building official Gerald Albertson approached the council with the idea after taking a photovoltaic system installation class at Florida Keys Community College in Key West.

How much homeowners will save depends on the size of the job, Albertson said, but it’s not an unsubstantial amount — $1,500 to $2,500, he estimated.

The waiver is intended as an incentive for Islamorada property owners to invest in alternative energy sources.

Albertson said there hasn’t been a big run on solar systems to date — in fact, the village has only issued one such building permit so far — but with Florida’s growing emphasis on alternative energy, everything helps.

The Florida Keys Electric Cooperative, which recently installed its own photovoltaic array in Marathon and plans a second, allows residents with solar power systems to sell excess power back to the utility, a process known as net-metering.

“It’s an expensive investment initially,” Albertson said of solar power, but there are federal and state tax rebates available, “and what little bit of incentive we’ve provided here helps that much more.”

Albertson said the council was very supportive of the idea even in these tight times, when governments are watching every penny of revenue.

“Islamorada continues to lead Monroe County in environmental sustainability through policy innovations,” said Islamorada Mayor Cathi Hill, according to a news release from the village.

The village has been looking at various ways to become a “greener” community. Hill is an active participant in local nonprofit Green Living & Energy Education’s Keyswide Sustain-Ability Project, a gathering of policymakers from throughout the Keys.

“This is about as green as you can get — an alternative energy source,” Albertson said.