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How To Get A Solar Permit

Updated: Jun 4

how to get a solar permit

Before moving to the installation phase of a solar energy project, solar contractors must obtain the necessary permission from the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). Because solar panel permit requirements and building codes vary by location, installation companies need to get familiar with how to get a solar permit in their area. Some towns have local ordinances and zoning requirements in addition to building and electrical codes, increasing solar permit requirements.


Unfortunately, residential and commercial solar permitting can be costly and time-intensive in some towns. However, some cities and states have made a concerted effort to streamline and standardize the solar permit process, which is helpful. Regardless, it is beneficial to take an organized and systematic approach to solar permitting, thus reducing your costs.


What Is a Solar Permit?

A solar panel permit is a necessary approval for installing solar power systems, ensuring they meet safety standards and local building codes, including the National Electrical Code (NEC). It involves reviewing the system design, component specifications, electrical diagrams, and structural considerations, along with inspections to verify compliance.


This permit is essential to ensure that solar installations are safe, meet regulations, and are properly installed. Overlooking this step can lead to compliance issues, such as fines or even being forced to remove the solar panel installation.


What Are the Solar Panel Permit Requirements?

The specific solar permitting requirements vary depending on your location and the type of solar installation you're planning. Common solar permits include:

  1. Building permit: Typically required for structural considerations to ensure that the solar arrays meet local building codes and zoning regulations.

  2. Electrical permit: Necessary for electrical work associated with the solar installation, ensuring compliance with the National Electrical Code (NEC).

  3. Structural permit: Sometimes required to verify that the solar energy system is structurally sound and can withstand environmental conditions.

  4. Interconnection approval: Needed to connect your solar system to the grid, ensuring compliance with utility requirements.

Permit requirements vary by town and state. Many require electrical permits, while some require a building permit for solar panel installations. Some towns even have a dedicated solar photovoltaic permit. However, solar installations must comply with the National Electrical Code (NEC), building codes, and local requirements.


Solar Permit Services

GreenLancer offers residential and commercial solar permit services to efficiently navigate the permit process. We provide comprehensive solar design and engineering services, including permit-ready solar plan sets, interconnection applications, and engineering reviews. These services help streamline the permit process and help solar companies scale up their operations.


To begin shopping for commercial or residential solar permit services, create a GreenLancer account.


Solar Inspection Process

Most cities and towns will also require a solar system inspection after installing the solar PV system. In the residential and commercial inspection process, the official looks for code violations and checks that the PV system matches the solar plan sets submitted with the permit. Thus, it is crucial to be aware of and adhere to the applicable codes. Typically, officials must complete the final inspection and utility interconnection approval before commissioning the PV system.


How Do I Submit a Solar Panel Permit Application?

Many towns allow online solar permit applications, while some require the paperwork to be submitted by mail or in person. To streamline the process, some local governments offer an expedited process for PV projects that meet some basic solar permitting requirements. Many AHJs require solar plans for permits, and some also require engineering stamps.


Residential solar permit application requirements commonly include the following:

  • Solar permit application form

  • Site plan

  • Structural and electrical drawings

  • Engineering calculations

  • Roof specifications

  • Description of work

  • Equipment specification sheets

  • Electrical diagrams

  • Contractor license

  • Solar permit fee


SolarAPP+

Solar Automated Permit Processing or SolarAPP+ is a new web-based permitting platform created to streamline and automate the plan review and solar permitting process. It is currently up and running for single-family rooftop solar systems on existing homes in certain jurisdictions. Currently, it is in use by some jurisdictions in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Texas, but some additional local governments are piloting SolarAPP+.


How to Get a Permit for a Solar System on Historical Buildings, HOAs & Condos

In some towns with historical buildings, additional solar panel permit requirements might be required to preserve the city's historic feel. For example, it might not be possible to install solar panels visible from the street, but it might be acceptable to install PV modules visible only from the back of the home.


Likewise, many homeowners or condominium associations have their own sets of guidelines. Some homeowner associations (HOAs) like to maintain a uniform appearance throughout the neighborhood and might have policies that impact solar projects. However, some states, including California, Florida, and Utah, have solar access laws that prevent HOAs from denying solar access to neighbors.


In condominiums, the roof and exterior of the building are typically considered a shared common element. Thus, the condominium association is likely to require approval, even in a duplex or townhome.


solar panel permit costs

Who Approves Solar Permit Applications?

The application process varies, often by the size of the solar PV system and by the town or city where you are installing the solar system. Obtaining a solar permit may require working with the building department, fire department, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), and other AHJs.


For some residential projects, merely listing the solar panels, inverter, racking system, capacity, and cost might be sufficient. However, in many areas, a more extensive site plan and solar PV plan sets might be necessary.


Some towns will require PE stamps by a licensed professional engineer on the solar drawings to show they are compliant with electrical and structural codes. These are especially common for larger commercial projects and may require outsourcing solar engineering services if a solar company doesn’t have those qualifications in-house. The GreenLancer network has licensed solar engineers in all 50 states.


What Are Solar Panel Permit Costs?

Like the local permitting process, solar permitting fees vary widely. In many areas, the solar permit cost is based on the total system size and is lower for residential solar installations.


According to 2022 SolarTRACE data for solar systems under 10 kilowatts, a residential solar permit usually costs between $150 and $350 in many major U.S. cities. But, residential solar permit costs in New York City are often nearly $1,000 compared to $160 in Los Angeles. Some states, including California and Colorado, have set limits on solar permitting costs to help encourage renewable energy use.


Solar Permit Costs in Colorado

The Fair Permit Act, passed in 2011 with bipartisan support, caps permitting fees at $500 for residential solar projects and $1,000 for commercial solar panel installations.


Solar Panel Permit Costs in California

The Golden State limits the total cost of a solar permit to $450 for residential PV projects of 15 kW or less. For larger projects, the State of California limits permitting fees at $450 + $15 per kW over 15.


In California, the limit for commercial solar permitting is $1,000 for 50 kW or less. For commercial solar systems between 50 and 250 kW, solar permit fees are up to $1,000 + $7 per kW above 50. For larger systems, the PV permit fee limit is $2,400 + $5 per kW over 250 kW.


What Factors Influence Solar Panel Permit Costs?

The cost for permitting can vary based on several factors, such as the location, size of the solar system, and the specific solar panel permit requirements set by the local permitting authority. Other factors like the complexity of the installation, additional inspections, and fees imposed by the jurisdiction can also affect the overall permit costs.


Utility-scale & Commercial Solar Permit Requirements

Often, solar permitting requirements are more involved for commercial projects, especially if they are large projects. Commercial solar permits might have more extensive requirements, such as providing single-line diagrams with PE stamps. Some large ground mount systems may also require a land use review.


In some cases, state or federal agencies are involved in the solar permitting process. For example, if you are installing a solar system on a capped landfill, you likely need to obtain permission from the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure the integrity of the landfill cap is maintained.


What Happens If A Solar Permit Gets Denied?

If a solar permit is not approved, it might not be possible to install the PV array. First, examine why the town denied the permit and if there is a simple way to overcome the issue. If it is a siting issue, is it possible to modify the project to meet code requirements?


If an HOA is preventing the project, examine if solar access laws in your state protect your customer. If the concerns are related to historic buildings, having the solar panels and conduit obscured from the front of the house might help, or perhaps installers can use building-integrated photovoltaic products, like solar shingles.


Some towns are blocking commercial solar farms due to zoning restrictions for property owners. In some areas, there is concern about developing farmland. In this case, it might be possible to overcome these concerns by grazing sheep on the property (also helping with mowing) or planting native wildflowers as a ground cover to create pollinator habitat.


Solar Permit Services

If a solar permit is denied, contracting solar design services can help keep the project on track.


GreenLancer could offer support by:

  • Reviewing the solar panel permit requirements: Our solar design partners can carefully review the specific requirements set by the local permitting authority and assess the reasons for the permit denial. By understanding the specific issues, they can provide guidance on necessary revisions to meet the required standards.

  • Modifying the design: If the permit denial is due to design issues, our solar permit service can make the necessary modifications to the solar system design, ensuring your project meets the local solar panel permit requirements set by the AHJ. They can provide updated solar plan sets and documentation that address the concerns of the permitting authority.

  • Communicating with the solar permitting authority: Our partners can act as an intermediary between the solar installer and the permitting authority, helping to facilitate communication and address solar panel permit requirements. Their expertise in solar permitting can contribute to a more effective dialogue and potentially resolve issues that led to the permit denial.

  • Providing additional solar panel permit documentation: In some cases, a permit denial may be due to a lack of required documentation or incomplete information. Our solar permit service can help ensure that all necessary documents, such as engineering designs, electrical diagrams, and specifications, are complete and meet the requirements of the permitting authority.


Meeting Solar Panel Permit Requirements

Being proactive in the permitting process is the best way to ensure a smoother installation process. Learn about design and siting requirements before designing the solar project to save time and hassle. If you install solar arrays in numerous towns with different restrictions and processes, keep a list to make things simpler in the future. Stay current on new regulations and take permitting time into account to keep projects on schedule.


GreenLancer’s marketplace has a network of vetted, licensed engineers and solar permit services who specialize in working with AHJs all across the U.S. Obtain solar plans for permits, professional engineering wet stamps, solar project consultation, and more. Connect with a rep today by completing the form below.





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