Small Solar Electric System Permits and Covenants
Before purchasing a small solar electric system, you should research your local permit and neighborhood covenant requirements.
You will probably need to obtain permits from your city or county building department. These include a building permit, an electrical permit, or both. Typically, your photovoltaic (PV) provider will take care of this, rolling the price of the permits into the overall system price. However, in some cases, your PV provider may not know how much time or money will be involved in obtaining a permit. If so, this task may be priced on a time-and-materials basis, particularly if additional drawings or calculations must be provided to the permitting agency. In any case, make sure the permitting costs and responsibilities are addressed at the start with your PV provider before installation begins.
Code requirements for PV systems vary somewhat from one jurisdiction to the next, but most are based on the National Electrical Code (NEC). Article 690 in the NEC spells out requirements for designing and installing safe, reliable, code-compliant PV systems.
If you are one of the first people in your community to install a PV system, your local building department may not have experience in approving one of these systems. If this is the case, you and your PV provider can speed up the process by working closely with building officials to educate them on the technology.
If you live where a homeowners association must approve a solar electric system, you or your PV provider will likely need to submit your plans and get approval before you begin installing your PV system. However, some state laws stipulate that you have the right to install a solar electric system on your home.