Because permitting processes often vary between jurisdictions, developers must learn about and work with each of these processes separately.
Permitting processes can involve many local, state, and federal entities—each of which has its own requirements for approval. Every distributed photovoltaic (PV) system must receive a permit from the local authority-having jurisdiction (AHJ), and utility-scale systems also often require state and/or federal permits.
Even under the simplest structure, installers must spend time preparing the permit application, submit it to the AHJ for review and then secure the permit before beginning installation. After installation, the AHJ must send a field inspector to visually inspect the project prior to issuing approval. With more than 18,000 AHJs in the U.S., installers spend an inordinate amount of time and resources learning the permitting and inspection process in a jurisdiction, and tailoring their business processes accordingly. The lack of process standardization across AHJs creates major inefficiencies for installers and for the AHJs. (Source)
Costs associated with permitting processes can be reduced through expedited permit processes, as well as training of code officials and utility employees.
Solar ABC’s Expedited Permitting
The Solar ABC’s report, Expedited Permit Process for PV Systems – A Standardized Process for the Review of Small-Scale PV Systems has been used by local jurisdictions throughout the country to streamline and standardize the permit process for small scale photovoltaic (PV) systems since its introduction in 2009.
- Solar ABCs technical resources
- Expedited Permit Process for PV Systems report and recommendations
- Expedited Permit Process webinar by Bill Brooks, Solar ABC’s
Solar Structural Considerations
The SolarStruc Truss Roof calculation is an intuitive, easy-to-use tool for solar project engineers, architects or installers. This tool makes it possible to calculate applied moments in members and compare with allowable moments in truss designed roofs. These load calculations can be used by a local code official to quickly confirm a truss analysis.
- Solarstruc Tool
- SolarStruc Tutorial Video (38 min)
Explore a recent study detailing roof structure considerations: Empirically Derived Strength of Residential Roof Structures for Solar Installations.
PV Training for Code officials and Inspectors
Lack of familiarity with PV systems, codes and standards by code officials and inspectors can lead to unnecessary steps in the approval process, which can slow system installations and add additional costs. The presentation by MREA covers how articles 690 and 705 in the National Electrical Code (NEC) pertain to photovoltaic (PV) systems. The Solar PV Training for Code Officials is a free online course that covers the major topics of concern for field inspection and expedited permitting including: Roof Mounted Arrays and Wire Management; Electrical for Roof and Ground Mounted Arrays; Specifics of Ground Mounted Arrays: Appropriate Signage; Equipment Ratings and Expedited Permitting.
- Solar Electric Systems and the NEC (MREA Presentation)
- Solar PV Training For Code Officials
- 2010 Field Inspection Guidelines for PV Systems
Zoning for Solar: Milwaukee and Madison Case Studies
Wisconsin Statute §66.0401 states “[A]ny restrictions on platted land that prevent or unduly restrict the construction and operation of solar energy systems…are voided and prohibited. In 2009, the City of Madison and in 2012, the City of Milwaukee worked to amend their ordinances to eliminate conflict with State statute. Learn from key staff on how they developed zoning changes, developed model language and successfully ushered them through the City’s approval process.
New York Times article – Solar Firms Call for a Common Permit Process
The National Solar Permitting Database (NSPD), is a FREE, community online tool that compiles solar permitting requirements around the nation in one single easy-to-use website
CleanPower finance webinar from Dec 2009 on simplifying Solar Permitting with panelists Doug Payne, Bill Brooks and Annie Carmichael – Simplifying Solar Permitting Powerpoint
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (IREC) released Sharing Success: Emerging Approaches to Efficient Rooftop Solar Permitting, a new report that outlines innovative strategies being implemented across the United States to help increase the efficiency of permitting procedures for rooftop solar systems. The report aims to serve as both a vehicle for discussion of permitting challenges, and as a source of inspiration for communities looking for realistic and effective ways to improve solar permitting while ensuring safe solar installations.
Clean Power Finance’s 2012 Nationwide Analysis of Solar Permitting and Implications on Soft Costs.