In some Urban areas, you will need a permit for off-grid solar power. In most rural area’s you will not need a permit for off-grid solar energy; however, there still may be some laws that you will uncover during the permitting process.
Some Counties require a permit to perform any work on your home that is an addition to or interferes with public services. In most cases, a permit is not needed for off-grid solar power; Be Sure to check your local laws for confirmation.
It can cost an enormous amount of money to bring power lines to rural areas if you don’t already have some for your piece of land. A permit is almost always required in the Urban area and has the work done by a licensed contractor.
Every County is Different
Every county is going to have different rules and regulations regarding what a permit is required for or not. In some counties, you can build your home with your own two hands, and as long as it stands up, you don’t cause any problems with neighbors or public utilities and pass an inspection, you don’t need a permit!
Since every county and city are different regarding their local building codes, you want to check before the planning phase to narrow down a budget. Some counties may require specific measurements, loads on the roof, or installation instructions.
Some counties may have restrictions on placement, or even the types of batteries used, even small details such as access points in case of an emergency, all come with the research required to follow the laws in your local area.
You can contact your county building department or any Authority Housing Jurisdiction in your local area to find out.
Battery Back Up
When it comes to the type of battery that you chose, there may be specific requirements that do require a permit. Mostly in urban areas where many people live close to each other, permits are required as a safety measure.
Lead-acid batteries (deep cycle batteries) are more forgiving and require more maintenance, and have specific storage requirements to prolong the battery’s life. In some counties, you may be required to permit the batteries and not the panels, or vise versa.
Lithium-Ion batteries are highly explosive when not correctly cared for. Overcharging a lithium-ion battery can cause swelling and cell destruction inside the battery. When designing your system, you want to consider the electricity load and the amount of electricity a lithium-ion battery carries. You are not supposed to deep cycle your lithium-ion batteries, so you may need to double up on your batteries to provide a safe installation.
If you need a permit, most counties will require installing, venting, storage, brand, model number, and all of that information before approval.
Electric Grid Connection
If your system is in the city, it most likely will have to be connected to the local power grid regardless and will require a permit along with a contractor to install it. This is a rigorous process for the contractor as the license has specific requirements that must be met.
After the system is installed, the county will most likely send out an inspector to ensure that the work is complete. The invertor that replaces your power companies meter may also require a permit for installation.
The trick is to turn direct current electricity into alternating current electricity to power your home. If you are building your home new, you will have no electric grid data to size your system.
Your consumption is something that needs to be considered for a permit. Some counties may only require a permit for systems over a specific size.
You can calculate your system here!
What to Do if I Need A Permit
If you need a solar permit, you can obtain one from your county office or local AHJ (authority housing jurisdiction). If you designed your system, the permit would be a task to complete. They will ask for measurements, load bearings, and installation instructions.
You can submit your plans yourself and get them approved. You also need to make sure that you have all of the items required by your county to obtain the permit. One way to do this is to hire a service such as Avila to complete the documents for you.
Items most likely needed to be submitted on a permit:
- Schematic line drawings
- Required 120 rule solar drafting
- Lineside tap solar
- Two-dimensional layout drawings
- Site installation drawings
- Roof or ground mounting schematics
- Operating voltages
- Maximum system voltage
- Open circuit voltages
Other Things to Consider
There may be specific requirements in a particular area of the country due to weather or local laws. One sure thing is that you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars only to find out that you purchased the incorrect panels.
Some areas have heavy snow and high winds or need specialized equipment. You may also need an engineer to sign off on your plans or an electrician to finish the installation. Debris flying around could damage your system.
Heavy Snow and High Winds
Snow can be pretty heavy after a large snowfall, and you don’t want to lose your panels after all that hard work. Most solar panels are rated for 150 pounds per square inch of debris capability. In some counties, they require a minimum of 40 pounds per square foot of load-bearing capacity to be legal.
In High wind areas, you may be required to position the panels at specific angles, within a particular range of angles, and use a higher grade bracket. In most cases, solar panels can handle wind speeds fit for a hurricane; however, the flying debris is most damaging.
In hurricane-prone areas, a solar installer can help mediate these concerns.
Some counties require that an engineer signs off on your design for a permit or even an off-grid solar system. The ground may have to be surveyed with an in-ground system to determine the foundation mounts’ correct configuration.
Hiring an engineer to help create the plans and design can be expensive, and many do-it-yourself solar kits have many combined parts with various ratings. Having too many variables in a DIY kit can increase the cost exponentially.
Other than having some electrical knowledge to calculate your home’s electricy load and annual usage; You may need some specialized breakers, breaker boxes, fuses, and even wiring to handle the solar system.
Some systems will run underground lines concealed in a conduit and need to be buried at a certain depth. Too shallow, and they could rust much faster and pose a danger to the family. You also would be routing the system yourself.
Here is a neat video that shows you how to bury your solar electricity lines.
It can be a lot to plan your DIY solar system at home. Most systems are not very complex to put into installing but do require a lot of labor. Whether or not you need a permit in your area, there are a few things to consider when installing your home system. We have covered a lot of those items here in this article.
Checking with the county or Authority Having Jurisdiction is an excellent idea to install the solar system in your home or even a vacation cabin. Even if your county does not require a permit, having the system inspected may prove to be one of the better parts of your investment.