What Permits Do I Need To Install Solar Panels? (Explained)

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Solar panels need proper electrical and construction work for proper installation. It is not just as simple as that.

You would need to obtain permits from the local government to install the solar panel, and these permits are established to ensure that you do not end up paying unnecessary fines.

What permits do you require to install solar panels? Well, it depends upon each state. The National Electrical Code (NEC), which was adopted throughout the United States, first included the solar PV system under its purview in the year 1984. The International Building and fire codes had its requirements for PV systems and governing construction codes for local installations in 2012.

These codes are subject to be updated once in three years, and the local governments need not compulsorily adopt the revised regulations.

Because of this lag, it becomes tough for the solar panel installers to work under various localities. 

Let us look in detail at the various permits required for installing solar panels.

What are the environmental benefits of installing solar panels?

The conventional form of energy releases more carbon and other pollutants into the environment.

Solar energy reduces the emittance of carbon and ensures less pollution, fresh air, and water. 

Factors Determining The Permission for Installing Solar Panels

To successfully get permission for installing the solar panels, you need an appropriate structural and building permit and a dedicated solar photovoltaic permit.

However, the required permits may vary depending upon the location and the size and type of the installation.

Location

You would be surprised to know that the solar permissions differ in terms of your state or town and further into respective codes, zonal laws, and other rules regarding solar installations.

For instance, you might have obtained an electrical permit to meet the state-mandated code.

A local fire department might also require a clearance area around your solar area so that they are easily accessible in case of any fire.

Similarly, you may have different permit requirements from a neighbor who lives in the same town.

For example, if you reside in a historical area, you need approval from the local historical commission to install solar panels.

But, if you are a part of the House Owners association, you may also require obtaining permission from the association to install the solar panels.

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Size and Type of Installation

The size and the type of Installations also determine the permit requirements. If you install an extensive, commercial solar panel system, you would require additional permit requirements than a small residential solar panel.

Similarly, the permit requirements for rooftop solar panels differ from the ground-mounted installations.

The ground-mounted installations require you to be a part of the land use review. But, you may not be required to obtain structural or rooftop permits. 

Further, the zonal laws in your area may also determine the additional requirements for ground-mounted solar panels. E.g., Distance from the neighbors and height of the ground-mounted solar panels.

Why Do I Need a Permit?

You need to have a permit to install the solar panels, not just because the laws require but also to protect yourself from unforeseen circumstances.

Though the requirements and law may differ from the state, town, or zones, the ultimate purpose is the same.

If you obtain a building permit, you can ensure that your building is safe and properly constructed. It also makes sure that you adhere to the building codes, the deviation of which would attract hefty fines.

Solar Inspection Process

The Solar Inspection process takes place both before and after installing the solar panels. 

The pre-inspection is necessary to ensure that your electrical system can withstand and is capable of covering the solar system.

For installing rooftop solar panels, you might have an engineer inspect your roof to check whether the roof can withstand the weight of the solar panels and the racking equipment.

Once you obtain the pre-approval, you can complete the installation. But, it does not end there. The local government will conduct the Post-installation inspection to ensure the installation meets the building and structural codes and the safety guidelines.

You cannot turn on your solar system before obtaining this approval from the authorities of the local government.

Finally, your utility company will also visit your property to check the solar panels. Once they approve, you will receive a Permission to Operate (PTO), which allows you to turn on your solar panels.

Solar Permit and Inspection Fees

To encourage and promote the usage of renewable sources of energy and bring down the burden from the local utilities, the US government offers subsidies to certain states.

If you are installing Solar panels for residential purposes, you might require only a few hundred dollars for the inspection.

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The most suitable example would be the bill enacted in 2017 in Colorado to cap the permit fees. While the fees for residential properties were capped at $500, they went up to $1000 for commercial purposes.

In 2018, the cap for the residential properties went down further to $450 after the bill was approved.

Streamlining the solar permitting and inspection process

The Solar Inspection process does not take place as quickly as said. It would take a lot of time for each of the inspections. The more time it takes, the more money you would spend. 

The Solar Energy Industries Association and Solar Foundation have initiated a Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarApp) to make this an easy-go task.

This application envisions streamlining the solar inspection process in an online-automated environment by defining clear standards and requirements. 

What If I Don’t Get All the Necessary Permissions?

If you do not get all the necessary permissions before you operate the solar panels, you will end up paying hefty fines. Further, you may also be required to dismantle the entire structure. 

Is my Property Suitable for Installing Solar Panels?

To determine if your house is suitable for installing solar panels requires practical thinking.

If you have trees shading and covering up your roof, rooftop solar panels might not be the right choice. The size, shape, and slope also determine the suitability of the solar panels on your rooftop.

If you find that your roof or your house is not suitable for installing the solar panels, well, nothing to worry about.

You can very well make use of the community solar system. A community solar system enables a group of people to use the solar energy generated from a single solar array installed either on-site or off-site.

The cost of purchasing and installation is shared among all the participants based on their determined budget and willingness. 

Will going solar be Beneficial?

The amount of money you would save by installing solar panels depends on several factors.

  • The size of the Solar energy system
  • Owning or leasing the system
  • The capacity to generate power
  • The intensity of the sun rays hitting the pane
  • Electricity rates set by your utility company
  • Whether you have enrolled for the power back system
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In many cities around, the cost of going solar has become competitive with the cost of electricity sold by the local utility. The prices of solar panels are continuously dropping, and the cost of installing has come down with more demand. 

You would be surprised to know that solar panels could enhance the resale value of your house. 

The solar panel installations are treated on par with the renovations done to your kitchen, basement, or any other structure. 

The buyers across the country are ready to pay up to $15000 for a house with average-sized solar panels installed. 

If you hire a Third-Party Owned system (TPO), there is undoubtedly some complexity concerning the real estate transactions. However, the sale price and customer satisfaction are neutral. 

Is It Safe To Install Solar Panels?

Why not? Absolutely. It is entirely safe to install solar panels. Solar panels cannot be purchased and installed easily, and they must meet international testing and inspection standards.

A qualified installer shall check whether the installation meets the requirements of the building, electrical, and fire codes of the local government. 

Certified electricians will thoroughly check the quality of solar panels as a part of the inspection process.

Can I Install the Solar Panels by myself?

Well. That is certainly not a good idea, and you should hire a professional with valid certifications to install solar panels.

Take Away

In recent times, thousands of houses are popping up with solar panels across the country as many Americans choose to use solar energy as the conventional source of energy. 

While it is not as easy as it is said, solar does not come with a one-size-fits-all solution.

Each property requires different norms to be complied with for installing the solar system. It is not just a law, but the layer of safety precautions that you surround yourself with.

Now that we have discussed the various permits you require to install the solar panels, let’s go ahead and make this happen. 

Choose the solar system that best suits your property, and we wish you luck with the permissions. 

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