Solar Permitting for Solar Installers Guide

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    Solar Permit Information 101

    In order to add a solar energy system to your home, you must first file for and receive permits. This is often the most time-consuming step of the entire process because you’ll need to draw up detailed documentation of your proposed system and receive approval from both your local building authority and your utility company for a grid-tied system.

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    6-Step Solar Permit Timeline

    At Avila Solar, we know the solar permitting process can be daunting, but we are here to help guide you through it and make the process as efficient as possible. We’ve put together this 6-step solar permit timeline to give you an idea of what to expect.

    Step 1: DIY System Design vs. Hire Specialists

    If you have the necessary knowledge, you can certainly design your own solar energy system. However, the majority of people will need professional help, which is where our experienced solar design technicians come in. You will be paired with a dedicated technician who will work with you to determine your energy usage and your goals for solar energy production, and will also take into account your local climate, location, the orientation of your home, and so forth to come up with a target system size.

    Once the appropriate system size has been determined, your technician will draft a design and provide a line-item quote for the entire system. Once you have approved the final design, we’ll pull together all the design details and documentation that you’ll need moving forward in the permitting process.

    Read More: How-to Calculate Solar String Size

    Step 2: Complete Interconnection Permit

    Unless your solar energy project is completely off the grid, you’ll need to apply for an interconnection permit, which allows you to connect your solar energy system to your local utility grid, meaning you can pull electricity from both sources as needed. The utility company will review your application to ensure that all the components and the design of your system is safe and compliant with all applicable codes. They will inspect your wiring diagram and the spec sheets for each component of your system.

    The utility company will likely also ask for information including the location of your utility meter and electrical panel, the proposed location of your solar panel array, the number and model of solar panels and inverters you plan to use, and the capacity rating for all of your equipment. In order to apply for interconnection, you will need to find the application document for your specific utility company – it may be on their website or you may need to call the company and request a form.

    All Avila Solar system designs are created to comply with the latest National Electric Code to make this step as smooth as possible, and we also take into account local code requirements when drafting your design to streamline the process.

    Step 3: Put Together a Building Permit Application

    Next, you’ll need to apply for a building permit from your local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). Typically, the AHJ is your city planning office, but it can vary based on your location. For roof-mounted systems, the local AHJ will need to confirm that your roof can bear the extra weight of solar panels. Most newer homes have roofs that are engineered to hold plenty of weight, but some older homes may have structural roof damage that isn’t immediately evident, or they may not have been designed to hold extra weight.

    If you aren’t sure whether your roof is sufficiently strong, it’s wise to have an engineer come out and inspect your roof before you begin your building permit application – if your permit application is denied based on an unsound roof, your project timeline can be hugely impacted so it’s better to know upfront. If your roof doesn’t pass muster, you can arrange for it to be replaced or repaired, or consider switching to a ground mounted solar energy system before you move ahead with the building permit application.

    Step 3a: Check Local Jurisdiction

    Many AHJs have unique building codes and regulations for installing solar energy systems, often varying even between towns, cities, and counties. It’s always a good idea to determine who your AHJ is at the very beginning of your solar project and read all their rules first thing. You can determine where to look for this by Googling “solar authority having jurisdiction [your location],” or start by contacting your city planning office if you have one. They can often either provide you with the application form or direct you where to find it.

    Step 4: Submit All Forms to Correct Department

    Now that you’ve got both forms and your solar design, it’s time to assemble your application packets and submit them. This can be a time-consuming process as applications can often end up being 10-15 pages long. Before you begin, make sure you have all your component spec sheets, your site map and plot plan, wiring diagrams, fire safety ratings, engineering certificates for both the solar panels and the mounting hardware you plan to use, and a map of the panel labels and placard placement.

    If you prefer not to handle this type of administrative work, we offer a permitting service where we will gather all the necessary information and create the application packets for you for a flat fee.

    Step 5: Wait for Approval

    After your applications are submitted, the waiting game begins as your AHJ and utility company review your material. We recommend double- or even triple-checking everything in your applications before you submit them as processing can take days or even weeks, and if some small incorrect detail causes your permit application to be declined, you’ll have to wait all over again.

    If your applications do happen to be declined, you will be informed of any issues so you can make revisions and then re-submit your application. Once both permits have been approved, we can move forward with fulfilling your solar equipment order, processing your payment and shipping the components to your home.

    Step 6: Installation and Final Inspections

    With both AHJ and interconnection permits in hand, you can go ahead and install your solar energy system as soon as the components are delivered. Before you can flip the switch on your system, however, both permitting entities will perform a final walkthrough and inspection to ensure that the system is safe, wired correctly, and up to code. With that stamp of approval, you can activate your system and begin generating solar power at your home!

    Permitting During COVID-19

    COVID-19 mitigation procedures such as social distancing and remote work have resulted in some modifications to the solar permitting process based on state and local guidance, but the process is still largely the same.

    At Avila Solar, your safety and the safety of our team and community is of utmost importance, so we have modified our workflow and installation process to allow for social distancing and minimal contact to reduce the risk of transmission.

    Some AHJs and utility companies have moved to entirely online application processes, allowing for payment online and sending digital copies of permits. Some have also moved to virtual inspections, allowing a solar contractor to take inspectors on a “walkthrough” via Facetime, Skype, or detailed photos.

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    Hire US-Based Solar Design Professionals

    At Avila Solar Drafting Services you might be paying a premium, but you will receive a world-class service with a QA/QC process before the final product gets to you. This removes a lot off your plate so you can focus on sales and installation.

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