Solar panel installation, like many home improvement projects, requires permit applications and approval before any on-site work can begin. These are typically managed by your local building department(s) to ensure that your residential solar energy system meets the structural and electrical requirements in your area.
Solar permitting is both a necessary and a widely variable step in the solar installation process, as permit requirements and timing vary widely from one jurisdiction to the next. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of solar permitting, including common types of solar permits, application steps and requirements, and possible causes for delay.
Solar Permit Types
The permits most commonly required for solar panel installation are building permits, electrical permits, and solar photovoltaic or PV permits. Depending on the project and location, homeowners may also require one or more of the following:
- Zoning approval
- Historic building approval
- Fire code and safety permits
So how do you know which permits are required for your project? Based on your home address, our solar permitting team will determine which jurisdiction(s) require approval for your solar panel installation, how many and what type of permits are needed, along with codes and requirements specific to each permit application.
Permit Application Requirements
While permit applications vary by jurisdiction and project, the goals are generally the same—to make sure your project meets code requirements and verify the integrity of your design and installation plans.
Completed applications are often 10-15 pages long and may include some or all of the following:
- Location plan
- Site plan
- Description of work
- Roof specifications
- Wiring schematics
- System components
- Fire safety rating
- Equipment certifications
- Business or contractor license
- Job cost information
All Palmetto solar energy system designs are reviewed and stamped by a licensed engineer. These are then submitted as part of your permit application.
Permit Review Process
There are three basic steps to the permitting process:
1. Palmetto will submit the permit application on your behalf.
In most cases, Palmetto will complete and submit the permit applications on your behalf as soon as your contract has been signed. However, some jurisdictions require homeowners to authorize or sign the permit application before we’re able to submit. This may be a “wet” signature (pen and paper) or an electronic signature, depending on your jurisdiction. You may also be required to provide supporting documents such as a tax or authorization form.
2. Your local jurisdiction will review the permit application.
Once your permit applications have been submitted, they enter the permitting queue at your local jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, the review process can happen in as little as two weeks. In others, it takes much longer. Massachusetts, for example, has a state-wide statute that allows all Authority Having Jurisdictions (AHJs) 30 business days just to start the review process.
To keep your project on track, the Palmetto permitting team will check in with your local jurisdiction every 3-7 days and closely monitor progress on your application.
3. Palmetto will work with your jurisdiction to secure permit approval.
Once your local permitting office has reviewed your application, they will either approve or deny the request for permits. If your permit application is denied, Palmetto will work with you, your Sales Representative, and/or your local permitting office to resolve any issues and move your project forward to approval. Once all approvals have been received (including utility approval and HOA approval, if applicable), you’ll be ready for installation!
Possible Causes for Delay
Solar permits are subject to backlogs or processing delays within your local permitting office. Please check your personal solar account for estimated timing in your area. Beyond administrative constraints, which—unfortunately—we cannot control, the most common causes for delay are as follows.
- Past Due Taxes or Fees - Your permit may be denied if you have past due taxes, water, or sewer fees. All fees must be paid in full before your permit can be approved.
- Unpermitted Work or Open Permits - If you’ve completed unpermitted work on your home or have open permits with another contractor, the work will need to be inspected and the permits resolved before your solar permit applications can be approved.
- Additional Requirements - In some cases, permit applications can be approved but call out additional work that is required for installation, such as a main service panel upgrade, utility meter relocation, trenching, or structural upgrades.
- Site Improvements - If your home requires site improvements such as a new roof or wiring upgrades prior to installation, you may need to show proof of completion before your solar permits can be approved. Many site improvements also require their own permits and inspections (typically managed by your contractor).
- Design Changes - In rare cases, we will need to update your design and submit new permit applications. When this happens, your personal Customer Lead or someone from our Customer Experience team will alert you of the change and work with you to navigate the requirements and minimize any delays.
How to Track Progress
Log in to your Palmetto account to see current time estimates for permit approval in your area.
While permitting is in progress, please keep an eye on your text and email messages. Your personal Customer Lead or someone from our Customer Experience team will reach out if we need anything from you and alert you once all permit approvals have been received.