Every solar project includes some mandatory requirements. One of the most crucial, costly, and time-consuming processes is to obtain permits, which indicate approval from the customer’s building authority (for new construction) and the utility company (for grid interconnection). The structural and electrical requirements differ by location and can require detailed documentation like wiring schematics, load calculations, safety plans, and warning labels.
Acquiring a solar permit is a complex process. This article explains how to obtain a solar permit quickly.
What is a solar permit?
Issued by the local government, a solar permit is a formal authorization for installing a solar panel system at a specific location. This document ensures compliance with all safety and building codes in the designated area. Obtaining solar permits marks the final step before installation. Both residential and commercial solar installations must align with U.S. construction permitting and inspection standards.
Image 1: Site plan included in a permit plan set
Why is a solar permit required?
A permit is required to ensure the safety of a solar project. Given the involvement of electrical work in solar panel systems, incorrect installations pose potential risks to individuals and property. Moreover, securing a solar permit is necessary as it is a legal prerequisite in many jurisdictions. Failure to obtain one can incur substantial fines or legal consequences.
What are the steps to obtain a solar permit?
The steps to obtain a solar permit vary depending on location, but there are general steps that apply to everyone:
Research local requirements:
Before starting a solar installation, it is crucial to investigate the local solar permit requirements from the local building authority and electric company, typically available on the city or county’s website. Look for details such as permit fees, submission process, application prerequisites, and any safety or zoning regulations relevant to solar installations.
Complete the permit application:
Once acquainted with local solar permit requirements, initiate the application process. The permit application usually includes structural, electrical, and fire safety requirements. Structural details about the solar system include size, location, design, racking, and attachments. The building authority also verifies the rooftop’s capacity to support the solar system. Note that permit requirements vary for rooftop and ground-mounted installations. While a building permit is essential for rooftop solar panels, a ground-mounted solar array may require a land use and zoning permit.
The utility company will review the interconnection agreement including electrical design details such as a single-line or three-line diagram, wiring calculations, meter and panel location information, planned system location, solar component spec sheets, and compliance letters. Additionally, engineering stamps from a professional engineer to demonstrate compliance with local safety standards may be required.
Pay the permit fee:
Typically, there is a fee to obtain a solar panel permit, which can vary based on the system’s size and local regulations. It is important to factor this cost into the solar project budget.
Wait for approval:
After submission and payment of the permit application, wait for approval. The approval timeline can vary from days to weeks, depending on the local government’s workload and the complexity of the installation. Once the permit is approved, the solar panel system can be installed.Once installation is complete, two additional steps are necessary before activating the system.
Contact the building authority and utility to conduct a post-installation inspection. The inspections will ensure the quality and safety of the solar system, verifying compliance with electrical wiring, building codes, and fire safety requirements.
Permission to operate:
Following a successful inspection, the next step is to apply for “Permission to Operate” from the local utility company. Once granted, the homeowner can begin generating solar energy.
Permitting is an essential step to complete for a solar installation. Become familiar with the design and site requirements to save time and reduce complications in the installation process. Certain towns have implemented automated systems with instant permitting through standardized platforms.
Contact a Solargraf specialist to learn more about permitting and discover how Solargraf help navigate the process.