No one can deny that lately, solar energy has become one of the most popular forms of renewable energy. In fact, according to research, over 12 million US households rely on solar energy. However, while solar installation has become much easier, bureaucracy is still slowing things down. From system design to building permits, new solar users have to go through a lot of hassle. Fortunately, our Solar Permitting 101 guide is here to explain how everything works.
What is Solar Permitting?
All constructions and installations that could potentially disrupt both your home and your neighborhood require a permit, and solar systems are no different. As a result, you will need to request a variety of permits before you can hire a solar contractor. Yet, due to complex procedures, you may have to wait for up to 40 days before receiving your permits.
Solar Permitting 101: How to Get a Solar Permit?
What makes the entire solar permitting process so daunting is that regulations vary from state to state. Therefore, getting your permit can be confusing, costly, and most importantly, time-consuming. From system design to paper submission, we’ll go over each step and help you understand how solar permitting works.
Creating the System Design
First of all, you will have to create a system design based on your home’s electrical needs. In other words, you must determine energy usage and the goals of your energy system. You also need to consider the local climate, location and house orientation to come up with a target system size. Once everything is determined, you need a draft design and a line-item quote for the entire system. It’s also important to mention that while you can make your own system design, it’s better to hire a contractor.
Request an Interconnection Permit
If you don’t want to completely get off the grid, you will need to apply for an interconnection permit. It allows you to connect your solar energy system to the local grid, meaning that you can pull power from both sources.
Interconnection permits are released by your local utility company after it makes sure that every part of your design is safe and compliant with regulations. Besides the wiring diagram and spec sheets, the utility company will also ask for details such as the location of your utility meter and the proposed location of your solar panel array. In order to get your own interconnection permit, you need to visit the utility company’s website or contact them directly.
Prepare the Building Permit Application
Next, you’ll have to apply for a building permit from your local Authority Having Jurisdiction. While the AHJ may vary based on your location, it’s usually the city planning office. The purpose of AHJ is to inspect and determine if your roof can hold the weight of the solar energy system.
But if you aren’t sure if your roof is strong enough, you could call an engineer or roofing contractor and request a private inspection before applying to AHJ. Otherwise, if your application is denied, the entire permitting process may get delayed.
Submit the Forms
After you have the building permit and the system design, you can assemble your application packet and submit it. Before you start, make sure to have everything you need, including component spec sheets, wiring diagrams, and fire safety ratings.
Keep in mind that the form submission process is lengthy, as most applications are 15 pages long. But you can always hire a solar design contractor that can handle all the paperwork for a fee.
Wait for Approval
Once the application is submitted, you’ll have to wait for AHJ and the utility company to review it. Remember to always double-check your application, as even one small mistake can cause your permit to be denied. However, even if that happens, you will be notified of any issues, so you can make easy revisions. And after your application is approved, you can hire a contractor and start working on your solar energy system.
All in all, getting your own solar installation can be a lengthy process, especially if it’s your first time. But if you get stuck in all the paperwork and bureaucracy, you can always revisit the Solar Permitting 101 guide and get an idea of what to do next.