Understanding the solar power permit process

Staff reportsApril 8, 20197310

Understand the Solar Permit Process

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, every 100 seconds, a new solar system was installed in the U.S. in 2018.

But before the solar panels are placed on your roof and you can start saving on your electricity bill, you will need to get some permits.

The installation of a renewable energy system involves wiring and electrical work, as well as the mountain of the solar panels on your roof, or on the ground (depending on your particular needs and features), and thus your municipality will have to approve it.

Finding a reputable and knowledgeable solar panel installer  is of vital importance, as they will usually handle all the permit process. The familiarity of the solar energy company with the procedure will assure that you get your permits sooner and can reap the benefits of solar power at a faster rate.

The permit time and process will vary depending on the state, local government, type and size of the system.

Some states are streamligning the process.

For instance, California approved the Solar Permitting Efficiency Act (AB 2188) in 2014 that required all city and county governments to adopt an ordinance that creates an expedited, streamlined permitting process for small residential rooftop solar energy systems with a capacity of less than 10 kW. Cities and counties are required to conform their permitting processes to the recommendations in the California Solar Permitting Guidebook. The bill also requires that cities and counties provide all eligible systems with a simple checklist for the permit process.

Before the “Golden State” took action, Massachusetts was already a step ahead when in 2012 it required the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to develop three basic tracks for interconnection. The Simplified track is for system with a capacity of 15 kW or less (an average home system), which has a maximum timeline for approval of 15 days. The Expedited track, for system higher than 15 kW has a maximum time frame of 40 days. Facilities that are bigger than these have a maximum time frame for approval of 125 days.

 Southern California Edison 

Utilities are also doing their part to get their customers on the grid sooner. 

If you’re a Southern California Edison (SCE) customer and you’re planning the installation of solar panels on your home, you will need to contact them for conceptual approval of the proposed system.

They will ask you to submit the following documents:

   Planning permit

   Express Eligibility Checklist -- to determine eligibility for express permitting

   Two sets of completed electrical plans

   Roof plan showing roof layout, the solar panels, and fire safety items

Once everything is approved and the installation of the system is complete, the local city or county will send out an inspector to do an onsite check.


Customers of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP)  in the City of Los Angeles, must submit a building permit for the structural support for all solar energy device installations, unless the solar equipment mounted on the roof does not exceed the building’s height at its highest point, the solar energy device system weight does not exceed four pounds per square foot, and the solar energy device is installed within 18” of the roof immediately below.

Solar panel installers will also have to apply for an electrical permit, except if the installation is in a one two family dwelling, a maximum of 2 strings are installed per inverter, the total capacity of the phovoltaic system being installed is 10 kW or less and the system contains only inverters with isolation transformers.or

The cost of a home solar energy permit should not exceed 450 in California. This is due to AB 1414, a law signed by former Governor Jerry Brown that capped solar permitting fees up to 2025. The fee cap for commercial projects, such as solar installations on the roofs of large businesses, is of $1,000, plus a sliding scale of higher permit fees for larger solar energy projects. 

Upon submitting all paperwork, a solar inspector schedules an appointment to visit the job site to verify the system specification and installation details.

Once the inspector verifies everything is up to code, he/she will install net meter  and remove the lock, but the system cannot be turned on until the final approval of the solar installation is submitted to the solar group.

The permit process for installation of solar panels on your property may also change depending on the specific area designation of your residence.

For instance, if you live in a historic area you may need approval from the local historical board or commission. And if you’re part of a homeowners association (HOA), you will likely have to request permission from them before putting solar panels on the residence.

So check carefully any zoning codes that may play a role in your case to avoid problems and charges later.

Please visit our solar blog to find out more about the benefits of going solar.

HahaSmart Blog - More Solar Tips and Guide
HahaSmart News - Stay Informed
Your Solar Incentives - See Credits and Incentives in Your Area
Check Your Home's Solar Price - See How Much You Save
Register Now - Unlock The Lowest Solar Prices in Your Area

Solar system price checker


Design Your Solar Home


12 3

Input your address to see if it is solar friendly and how much you can save with solar.

Great. Your address is perfect for solar. Solar incentive is still available. Select monthly utility cost and calculate the size of solar system you will need now.

Whoa ! Going solar is definitely a smart decision.

kw System size years Payback period Lifetime savings

No money down, 100% finance is available.

Find the lowest priced panels for your area! Use our Price Checker right now!

Do not show this information again.