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Solar Paperwork – What’s Involved

If you are thinking about installing your own solar, you should know that there is more to getting the job done than sweating it out on the roof and hooking up the wires. There is paperwork to be done before and after the solar panels go on the roof. 

First, you have to get a permit from your local building department which will be the city you live in or the county if you are outside city limits. You will need what is typically called a “permit package” that will be several over-sized pages explaining to the building department exactly what you intend to do and proving that the work meets all the building and electrical codes. 

This package will include a site plan showing where on your property all the solar equipment will be installed (including inverters and disconnects). There will be specifics on exactly how you plan to attach the system to your roof and details on the roof structure to show that it can handle the weight of all the solar panels and racking. You will need an electrical diagram that shows how all the solar components go together and how you will make the connection to the grid. Along with the diagram, you have to show all the calculations proving the solar components are compatible and that your interconnection to the grid will be code compliant. You will have to include the datasheets on all the equipment and you will probably also have to fill out some generic permit application forms when submitting all this.

You will also have to do some paperwork for your local utility company. They will want to know the all details of the solar equipment that you are connecting to their grid. Every utility is different but most of them will want you to complete and sign a “net-metering” agreement. This is basically a contract with the electric company that outlines details of responsibilities of both parties and may also cover things like what your electric rate will be after solar and how you will be compensated for energy fed into the grid at times when your solar is producing more than your home is using at any given time. The utility company may also require justification of your system size, especially if it produces more power than you normally use.

If you are lucky, there will be paperwork for a rebate or renewable energy credits (RECs). Rebates are often offered by state or local government. Sometimes they are offered by utility companies. Renewable energy credits are a way to get paid for the solar energy you produce and are only available in some places under certain circumstances. The amount of paperwork involved with these varies greatly and some programs require paperwork to be submitted before you start your installation process so make sure you check ahead of time and know what is expected.

Then there is the federal tax credit. On residential solar power systems, you get 30% of what you paid for your system off of what you owe in federal income taxes (for systems installed by December 31, 2019 after that drops to 26% for systems installed in 2020). In order to claim this tax credit, you simply have to fill out IRS Form 5695 and submit it with all your other tax forms. That is probably the easiest part of your whole DIY solar project. 

So now you are prepared for what you have to do and if the thought of all this paperwork gives you a headache, here is a tip – if you buy your system from we help you with all of this paperwork. This will save you time, money and the dreaded paper cuts.  

Author: Harold Tan

I believe clean, renewable energy is key to the evolution of society as a whole. Solar powers our planet, why not harness it to power humanity? Let's power our homes, our work, and our vehicles with solar energy. It begins with raising awareness and encouraging those around us to go green.

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  1. The planning process can only be described as a Solar Panels installation inhibiter, and a crime against Humanity. For a long time I wondered why Solar Panels installation was so expensive, and took so long in planning. Then I did a DIY job realized that is because of the Planning. You tried to be general in your article, but you really really needs to be described on a County per county basis. I can share with you Sacramento county which is an awful mess, and my Job took 6 Months just in the planning, then I missed the Good Weather window for the Install, leading to a further 6 Months delay due to a good year for Rain in California. In that County you have 4 People who need to see the plans. 1. SMUD (Electricity provider), 2. City Planning Department. 3. Fire Department, 4. Some Contractor the Fire department hires to do their review work for them. At this point I’m really cynical, because only SMUD looks at your plans for Free, they look at plans electronically and give you approval within 2 weeks, Awesome!!! The Planning and Fire take about $300 a piece each, for a set of paper plans that cost $100 a pop to print and deliver in their specific paper size. The Fire Department a approval has to come after SMUD approval and the plans are sent to the their offsite contractor, the contractor is VERY unlikely to approve the plans on a first pass, (there’s no money in that, and a credibility cost there as well) and since that Fire Department still use paper iterations to the plans means a cut of a new set, at $100 a pop the cost mounts, as they also need it in triplicate. The contractor is will find some minor issue, then the Fire Department will force you to do an Alternate Method and Material request which is $500, before your done with the Fire Dept you could be down $1000 and 3 months your project just waiting for their approval. Meanwhile the City Planning department who also already has a copy of the plans given at the same time as the Fire Department and do nothing because they cannot approve anything without Fire Department Approval, that added a further 3 months. During that time you’re hoping no changes in the plans because that could lead to a re-visit to the Fire Department, and going back to SMUD. Once you have approval from Fire Department, City Planning and SMUD you can then lay downs solar panels, then hope the AS_Built doesn’t trigger issues and cause the City Planning and Fire Department to take exception. I hope one day Solar Panel installation will be easy and we can stop burning fossil fuels, people want to make it happen, but Planning departments are discouraging it. I think we need more articles that simplifies all this, instead of letting us know, yes it suck, live with it.

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  2. Please let me know how it would cost for the complete supply, installation permit, up & running For 10 KW solar system with net metering? 289 Hoover dr, Pickering, l1v5s2 How much govt incentives? How much per kw will be paid to the owner by the city?

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