Solar Permitting Best Practices

Understanding that Red Tape increases cost and time spent on solar energy systems, the following best practices for solar permitting were developed to standardize and simplify solar processes across jurisdictions.  These best practices reflect nationally-accepted best practices developed and vetted by solar installers, building officials, U.S. Department of Energy SunShot InitiativeProject Permit, The Vote Solar Initiative, The Interstate Renewable Energy Council, the Solar ABCs, and the Wasatch Solar Challenge Team.  

Check out these additional permitting resources from Project Permit and Vote Solar/IREC.

If you would like assistance aligning your permitting regulations with best practices, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Solar Permitting Best Practices Checklist:

Category

Issue

Best Practice

Approvals
How many approvals from jurisdictional departments and professional engineers are required?
Eliminate reviews that do little to validate the safe and efficient operation of a proposed PV system (like reviews for aesthetic criteria), remove unnecessary costs, and expedite permit issuance.
How many separate inspection trips are required?
Eliminate multiple inspections; don't require in-process inspections.
What licenses or certifications are required from solar contractors?
Do not require community-specifict licenses: use NABCEP or State certifications.

Information
Access

What are the options for obtaining an application?
Allow citizens and installers to obtain applications electronically and/or allow online submissions and submission by e-mail
How is the permitting process information accessible? Display permitting and inspection process details online so that prospective solar system owners and solar contractors have a clear understanding of the steps needed for local approval.  Include a checklist of all requirements for a permit in the same location.
Is there an accessible designated point of contact? Designate a knowledgeable and accessible point of contact to answer solar questions. Two contacts is preferable. Encourage and/or provide solar-specific training to ensure all permitting staff are knowledgeable about solar.
Where is information on permit fees made available?
Publicize the fee structure on the permitting agency's web site and explain the required procedures in the simplest possible terms. Check out our sample fee structure!
How is information on inspection requirements made available?
Publicize the inspection requirements on the permitting agency's web site and explain the required procedures in the simplest possible terms.  Use these checklist guidelines!  Or check out the sample checklist in our permitting toolbox.
Timing
What is the average time required to complete a permit application?
Best practices dictate that residential permits can be completed in one half day or less. Commercial applications may require up to one full day.
Is there a policy to issue or deny permits within a specified number of days?
Provide a decision on each permit application within three business days
Does the jurisdiction track the number of days each permit takes to process?
To meet best practices, it is important to track the time permits take to process, with the goal of processing most permits in the shortest possible time.
What is the average number of business days between application submission and decision?
Provide a decision on each permit application within three business days.
What is the average number of business days from inspection request to actual inspection?
Schedule an inspection with an installer within two business days of an inspection request.
What is the typical window of time given to the installer for the final onsite inspection?
Reduce the inspection appointment window to two hours or less.
Fees
What is the average cost for the applicable permit fee(s) for typical installations?
Please see the sample solar permit fee schedule for Utah designed by a collaboration of solar installers and jurisdictions.
Are the permit fees structured as flat, cost recovery, valuation open ended, or valuation capped?
A capped, tiered fee system where the fee reflects cost recovery on permit review and inspection is a best practice.
 Expedited Process How many visits to the building department are required? If possible, online permit submittals can save solar contractors time and money.  If permits must be submitted in person, obtaining a small PV permit should require no more than one visit.
Are there mechanisms in place for accelerating PV permitting processes under certain conditions?
Fast-track solar permits when appropriate: examples include standard residential installations or installations from contractors with a reliable track record.  Provide over-the-counter or electronic review of permits for small PV systems in one day.
Are permitting requirements standardized? Set and adhere to standard permitting requirements to make the process clear and transparent.  Work to make permitting standards consistent with neighborning jurisdictions.
Does the jurisdiction use the Solar ABCs Model Expedited Solar Permit?
Adopt the modifiable Expedited Permitting Form for Utah (based on the original Solar ABCs expedited solar permit). The Wasatch Solar Challenge Team modified the Solar ABCs Expedited Permitting Form incorporate both these best practices and special considerations for solar in the intermountain west, including wind and snow loads.

 

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