5 Tips for Overcoming Solar Permitting Red Tape
Updated: Nov 21
Many clients are eager to start the solar installation process. After finalizing the solar system design, agreeing on a price, and procuring the solar panels and equipment, there is another critical step before the installation – the solar permitting process. The solar permit application and approval process can be arduous and time-consuming for some PV companies.
Yet, efficient solar system permitting is crucial as it leads to faster installations, reducing project timelines and allowing for a higher volume of work. Efficient PV permitting benefits solar companies by reducing costs, increasing customer satisfaction, and promoting the adoption of renewable energy.
The solar permitting process involves obtaining approvals and permits from local authorities to install solar energy systems, and often includes solar drafting and sometimes obtaining solar engineering stamps. So, it's a critical step to ensure compliance with safety and regulatory standards. Read on to learn about tips and strategies to expedite and streamline the solar permitting process to accelerate your business capabilities while cutting expenses.
Understanding the Solar Permitting Process
Solar permitting is the official process to gain approval for solar energy system installation and utility interconnection. It involves various key parties, including the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) responsible for regulations, the utility company, and the homeowner or property owner.
This collaborative process ensures that solar installations adhere to safety, building, and electrical codes while meeting local regulations. Many AHJs require an electrical permit for a solar system, while others also require a building permit. Obtaining solar permits requires paying relevant permitting fees and meeting local permitting requirements.
Therefore, it is critical for solar installers to adhere to all applicable code requirements and regulations, including the National Electrical Code Article 690. For some residential rooftop solar systems, merely listing the solar equipment, such as the panels, inverter, and mounting hardware, may be sufficient. For other residential projects and larger commercial PV installations, solar drawings are necessary.
Once the photovoltaic system is installed, someone from your local AHJ will conduct a final inspection of the solar array to ensure it adheres to all safety codes and requirements. The utility will then approve the interconnection of the system to the electric grid, and it can begin generating solar power.
Solar Permit Challenges & Solutions
Unfortunately, the permitting can be laden with issues and delays, often referred to as solar permitting red tape. Common hurdles include complex solar permit paperwork, extended plan review times, varying regulations in different regions, and sometimes conflicting interests among the involved parties. Therefore, overcoming these obstacles and streamlining the permitting process is essential.
Often, solar installers use partners, such as GreenLancer, who help with solar system design, interconnection applications, and permitting. For example, GreenLancer can provide permit-ready solar system drawings and design sets, and professional engineering reviews for residential and commercial solar projects. This can help solar businesses scale up their operations and reduces the need for in-house expertise.
5 Tips to Streamline the Solar Permitting Process
Let’s examine how to expedite the solar permitting process requirements to keep projects on schedule and profitable.
1. Conduct a Pre-Permit PV Site Assessment
A well-documented pre-permit site assessment streamlines the permitting process and increases the likelihood of a successful solar installation. It allows you to evaluate site, including shading and roof conditions, to determine the feasibility of the solar project.
Also, the pre-permit site assessment enables you to prepare comprehensive documentation. By thoroughly assessing the site, you can gather essential data and information needed for permit applications and solar system design plans.
This documentation includes precise measurements, technical specifications, and a thorough understanding of the site's physical characteristics, all of which are vital for obtaining solar permits and approvals from local authorities.
The GreenLancer website has some helpful resources for solar contractors in our support hub, including the:
2. Stay Informed About Local Solar Regulations
Staying informed about local regulations and permitting requirements is a fundamental step when it comes to solar permitting. This involves examining local ordinances, codes, zoning laws, and any other regulations that pertain to solar energy installations. By having a clear understanding of what's expected, you can streamline the PV system permitting process and avoid costly delays.
It's essential to regularly research and understand the permitting requirements specific to the AHJ of the solar project. Although regulations must comply with national codes, there can be additional requirements that vary from one locality to another.
3. Utilize Standardized Templates and Forms
Using standardized templates and forms for solar permitting is a practical approach with numerous benefits. These templates offer efficiency and reduce the chances of errors or omissions in permit applications.
Consistency is another significant advantage. Standardized templates maintain a uniform format for permit applications, making it easier for reviewers to understand and process them. This consistency ultimately expedites the permitting process. Also, these templates can be customized as needed for specific projects, allowing flexibility while still fulfilling the essential code requirements.
4. Leverage Online Solar PV Permitting Systems for an Expedited Permit Process
Utilizing online solar permitting systems when available is super helpful for solar installation companies. Digital submissions are advantageous for their speed and accuracy, and eliminate the need for office visits or postal delays.
Online systems streamline the permit application process, reducing the time it takes to submit applications. Additionally, digital submissions are less prone to errors with manual paperwork, helping to ensure that permit applications are complete and accurate.
One notable example of an online solar permitting system is Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+), which is available in participating local jurisdictions in California and beyond. The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy funded the development of Solar APP+ through an award to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
SolarAPP+ offers a standardized platform for solar permit applications, making it especially convenient for solar contractors. The system helps ensure that all essential information and documentation are included, further accelerating the approval process and promoting the adoption of solar energy.
5. Develop Strong Relationships with Local Officials & AHJs
Building a relationship with the relevant municipalities, local government agencies, and officials can help clarify any questions and ensure that your project aligns with their expectations and requirements. Open communication and cooperation with local authorities often leads to a more efficient permitting process. This approach can help resolve any potential issues before they become significant hurdles.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Solar Permitting
Many solar companies have questions related to the solar PV permitting process.
How can solar installers leverage technology for PV permits?
Solar installers can maximize efficiency in the permitting process by embracing solar permitting software and other technology. Solutions like partnering with GreenLancer for solar design, engineering, and permitting support and using SolarAPP+ simplify the solar permit application process and offers streamlined document management. These approaches save time and ensures compliance with local solar permit requirements.
In addition, solar installation companies can utilize drones and aerial imaging for site assessments. Drones facilitate efficient data collection and enhance safety during inspections by eliminating the need for employees accessing potentially hazardous or hard-to-reach areas. Aerial imaging technological innovation can expedite the inspection process and ensures a more comprehensive understanding of the PV project site, leading to quicker solar permitting approvals.
How can best practices in document management expedite the solar permit process?
Best practices in document management can help with streamlining the permitting process.
By effectively organizing records, solar companies can streamline permit applications and compliance.
Digital document storage solutions and cloud-based options ensure that all necessary documents are easily accessible, reducing the risk of misplacing or losing critical paperwork.
Document retention and compliance, maintained through these practices, help companies adhere to regulations and expedite the permitting process by providing quick access to essential information, making solar installations more efficient and hassle-free.
How Can Speeding Up Solar Permitting Improve Your Profitability?
Getting solar system permits quickly and efficiently benefits the environment and is economically advantageous. Unfortunately, PV permitting delays can significantly impact the overall cost of solar projects. Using a high-quality solar permit design service, such as GreenLancer, for PV plan sets can improve the process.
To understand the economics of speeding up the permitting process, it's essential to calculate the cost of these delays. Delays result in increased soft costs, such as labor and project management, making solar projects more expensive for your solar company and customers.
Streamlining the permitting process is key to reducing your soft costs. When the solar permitting process is slow and cumbersome, solar companies face higher labor expenses, extended project timelines, and increased overhead costs. By making permitting more efficient, you can significantly reduce your project expenses.
GreenLancer Solar Permit Services For Greater Profitability
Reducing your PV permitting costs promotes profitability by directly impacting the bottom line of your solar installation business. Lower permitting costs mean reduced operational expenses, which, in turn, allow you to offer more competitive pricing to solar customers. This competitive pricing can attract more clients and increase the volume of solar projects, leading to higher revenues.
GreenLancer is the only online marketplace for solar installers to get standardized, quality PV permit design and solar engineering design services with speed, scale, and reliability. Our platform allows batch project management, in-app communication, and a team of support specialists to help solar businesses save time and money. Since 2013, GreenLancer has served over 5,000 solar installers on over 150,000 projects and deployed $1.8 billion and counting in commercial and residential solar projects nationwide.