Before installing any solar system on your residential or commercial property, you must get a solar permit. These permits are seen as a necessity because solar systems raise some safety concerns since they’re an addition to your building. Solar power systems also involve electricity, which can be dangerous if not properly installed. That’s why your utility company and local government need to make sure you meet some set specific needs before granting you permission to proceed with installing. In this article, you’ll find more details about the solar permits you need for both residential and commercial properties.
What Are Solar Permits?
A solar permit is a document from a government entity that grants you permission to make a solar addition to your residential or commercial property. The government requires you to get the permit before beginning the solar installation to ensure your system adheres to set regulations.
To get the permit, there are some standards you should comply with. Even if you have installed a solar system before, you need to get another permit before installing another system as the rules usually change with time. The permits are also valid for a particular period which is usually specified.
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Why Do I Need a Solar Permit To Go Solar?
Similar to needing building permissions for any home improvement project, you need permission for solar system installations. If you live in a municipality, the installation will be subject to all the building codes within the municipality. After getting the solar permit from your state, you’ll have assurance that your roof is structurally sound to accommodate the system without posing a danger to your property. The inspection also lets you rest easy knowing the system is installed properly to avoid fire hazards that may result from poorly installed solar systems.
You should never feel like getting the permit is just for the authorities to keep you following all the rules they have set. It also ensures you and your property are safe. If you decide to sell your house someday, buyers will want to check whether you followed all the steps required to install the solar system. If you don’t have the documents, they may avoid buying your property.
Unfortunately, some people feel applying for permission and gaining acceptance is too much hassle since it involves several steps. However, if you install the system without obtaining the permits, you risk getting into trouble with the authorities. You may also pay hefty fines.
Professional and licensed solar system installers will also not want to work on your project if you haven’t obtained the permits. You also risk having to remove the system in the future if the authorities find you did the installation without permission.
Where Do You Obtain a Solar Permit?
You will get a permit from your local government and your utility company. If your neighborhood has a homeowner’s association, you may also need to get a permit from the property manager. However, some states have Solar Access Rights Laws to protect homeowners from interference from HOAs regarding their solar installations. Some states with these incentives include Nevada, Wisconsin, and Texas.
If you’re not sure where to get the permit, you can ask your installer. They will probably guide you through the entire process and make things easy for you. In most cases, homeowners or business owners looking to install solar will need a solar photovoltaic (PV) permit, an electrical permit, or a structural or building permit. Be ready to offer details on project specifications, design, and equipment requirements.
How Long Do Solar Permits Last?
Solar permits will expire after some time. The length until expiration depends on your local government regulation. If you obtain a permit and it expires when you haven’t started the installation, you have to apply for another permit.
What Happens Throughout the Solar Permitting Process and Inspection?
The solar permitting process and inspection are not very complicated. However, it can be time-consuming. In other words, it’s not something you start today and finish tomorrow.
What To Expect and Have Ready
- Utility Inspection. First, your utility company will want to ensure that your system is safe and complies with the set codes. They will ask for the wiring diagram and spec sheets just to make sure everything has been properly designed.
- Building Permit. You also need a building permit. If the system is to be installed on the rooftop, your roof must be able to handle the extra weight of the solar system. Any problems with your roof will need to be repaired or replace it beforehand. If you are not very sure your roof is in good condition, it’s always good to get a structural engineer to repair it even before filing for the permit. That will save you ample time.
- Consider Your Surroundings. Maybe you plan to install your system on an additional structure, such as a gazebo. It’s a good idea to involve a structural engineer to make sure the system will offer a good surface for the system.
- Call in the Experts. If you want a ground-mounted system, get a soil expert to determine the class of your soil.
Filing the Forms
Next, it’s time to fill out the forms. You’ll want to start by downloading the permit forms from your city planner’s website and then fill them out. The filing can be challenging, especially when you aren’t familiar with some information you need to fill. You can always get help from your solar installation company.
The building department will ask you to provide the following information:
- The total number of solar panels
- Number of inverters
- Roof plan
- Site plan
- Location plan
- Construction plan
The city will review these forms after some time. The time table for a review could be a few days or even weeks. This depends on how busy the officers reviewing the document are.
Take your time when filing these forms to avoid rejection which would require you to reapply again, delaying everything. If they decline your application, they give reasons for that so that you can take the necessary actions and reapply again. If they approve the application, you are free to install the system.
After installation, the utility company and building department have one more thing to do: inspect your system.
A representative from the building department will come to check whether your system has been installed safely following all the building codes. A representative from your utility company will also come to check the system. After your system passes the inspection, the professionals conducting it will give you a stamp of approval that allows you to use your system.
How Much Are Solar Permits?
The cost of solar permits will vary depending on different factors. Just like the requirements, there’s no one size fits all. However, most homeowners will find they will only need a few hundred dollars to cover permit and inspection fees. Business owners can expect to fork over a few more for a commercial property. This is because commercial systems are usually large and have so many details. They also take more time during the inspection process.
Sometimes your local solar installation company will include the cost of the permits in the total installation cost. You can always ask them how much will go to the permits. If the total installation cost does not include the cost of the permits, your local government will tell you how much to pay. You can visit their website or give them a call if the website is not very resourceful.
How Do Solar Permit Requirements Differ Depending on Where You Live?
Solar permit requirements vary from location to location. Requirements will depend on your city and town’s zoning, coding, and other legislation regarding solar panel installation. Some other instances that might impact a solar permit include:
- Homeowner’s Association. If you are in a homeowner’s association, you might also need to obtain permission from the property manager.
- Local Fire Department. In some locations, the fire department might require they designate a clearance area around your system. They will use this space to access the roof in case of a fire.
- Historical Neighborhood. If you live in a historical area, you may need to obtain an installation permit from the historical commission.
Basically, it’s always good to research more on the permits you are required to get according to your area’s regulations.
Other Factors Influencing Solar Requirements
Solar permits requirements also differ depending on:
Size of the Solar System
The requirements for installation also depend on the type and size of the system you want to install. For example, installing a very large system on a commercial property will call for extra permits than a residential system. You might also wait longer before your application is approved and pay more for your permit.
Type of System
The requirements will also depend on where you are going to install the system. For example, the requirements for a rooftop system are different from those of a ground-mounted system. When installing a ground solar system, you will not be subjected to structural or building regulations. You will probably need a land-use review.
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Hopefully, you have understood all you needed to know about solar permits. Want to go solar and reduce your energy bills? ONIT Home specializes in installing solar power systems that can save you money while helping the environment. We’re a top residential and commercial solar systems installation company helping families in Arizona, California, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, and surrounding areas.
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