• Solar Permits in San Diego: A Complicated Affair

    Most homeowners who get solar installed get a company to do it for them.  Unless you’re a construction pro, the planning, design, and installation is best left to a company who does it all the time.  Just to get a permit to begin construction is a complicated and arduous process that requires keen knowledge of city codes and construction, which requires either extensive research or experience.

    As most of our customers don’t know just how much goes into obtaining a permit to construct solar in San Diego, we thought we’d provide a summary of what the city requires in order to start building a system:

    Approval Requirements

    1. An electrical permit is required for installation of all solar systems.  This includes ground mounts.
    2. If the installation requires modification to an existing residential structure, a Combination Building Permit is required.
    3. If the system is a ground mount where the support structure is greater than 5 feet above the ground, a Building Permit or Combination Building Permit is required. 

    Submittal Requirements

    Along with obtaining permits, the following plans and documents must be submitted with the appropriate fees and documents.

    1. Application Package
    •   General Application (DS-3032).
    • Hazardous Materials Reporting Form DS-165 (When batteries are proposed or when Building Permit is required).
    • San Diego Regional Hazardous Materials Questionnaire (HM-9171) (When Building Permit is required).
    • Storm Water Requirements Applicability Checklist (SD-560) (When Building Permit is Required)

           2.   Electrical Plans

    •  Professional Certification – Professional certification must  be obtained in order  to submit Photovoltaic Plans
    • Single-Family/Duplex/Townhouse Residential PV Installations per Plan Template – Any plans for the residential installation, submitted via the plan template provided by the city, including the manufacturers specifications for the proposed panels, racking, inverters, and metering.
    • All other PV Installations – For ground mounted solar systems, or roof-mounted systems that weigh six pounds per square foot or more, a different set of plans must be submitted, including:
    • Site Plan - The site plan for ground-mounted solar systems has to show property lines and setback dimensions. For roof-mounted solar systems, the site plan has to show the footprint of the building and the location of the system on the roof.
    • Roof Plan - The roof plan has to show the roof slope and location of the existing and proposed solar panels on the roof in relation to any ridge, hip or valley, as well as the location and size of any existing roof-mounted equipment. Weight of the system, connection details, as well as roof access pathways and ridge clearance for fire safety must be included in the plan as well.
    • Single Line Diagram – This outlines the details of the panels including manufacturer information, voltage, killowatts, and input ratings.
    • Manufacturers Specifications – A copy of the manufacturer specifications of the panels, racking, inverters, and meters.\
    • Design professional stamps and signatures - All plans have to be stamped and signed in accordance with the California Business and Professions Code by the registered design professional.

    i.     PV plans may be stamped and signed by a California registered Electrical Engineer or a licensed Electrical Contractor (C-10 License) or a licensed solar contractor (C-46 License) who is responsible for the design and installation of the system.

    ii.    A California registered electrical engineer or a C-10 must sign and stamp plans when an electrical panel upgrade is proposed.

    iii.   A California licensed general contractor (B-License) may sign and stamp the plans only if the PV panels are installed as a part of a permit for a new building or an addition to an existing building.

    3.   Structural Plans and Calculations

    1.  Structural Review Required

    Structural review is required for the installation of PV systems where any of the following conditions occur:

    1. Alterations to a structure as required for support and/or attachment for PV systems.
    2. Weight of PV system exceeds six pounds per square foot.
    3. Weight of any ground-mounted or roof-mounted equipment exceeds 400 pounds.
    4. PV mounting height, at any point, is greater than 24 inches above the roof level
    5. PV system is installed on a  ballasted roof.
    6. Ballasted PV systems.
    7. Ground-mounted PV system located more than five feet above the ground.

    2.            Structural Plans

    Provide four sets of plans as follows when structural review is required above.

    1. Structural plans that demonstrate the required load path to the ground.
    2. A framing plan with the following information:

    i.             Size and location of all roof framing members and vertical support elements.

    ii.            PV support structure framing plan with size and location of all framing members.

    iii.           Location, size and weight of any existing or new roof-mounted equipment.

    iv.           Maximum weight, number and location of PV panels.

    v.            Size, weight and number of ballasts at each location.

    vi.           Attachment of panels to the support structure and the support structure to the roof or to the ground.

    1.  Manufacturer’s installation specifications for pre-manufactured racking systems.
    2. Cross-section showing the height of the proposed PV panels above the roof or ground, the supporting structure, slope, and the distance down the slope from any roof ridge.

    3.   Structural Calculations

    Structural calculations have to be provided to evaluate the existing roof framing system for roof dead load, PV dead load (panels, ballasts, support platform, etc.) and roof design live load. The accuracy of the calculations must be evaluated by a California licensed civil/structural engineer or architect:

    1.  Existing gravity load-carrying structural elements (joists, beams, girders, trusses, columns, foundation) where installation of the PV system causes an increase in design gravity load of more than 5 percent and,
    2. Existing lateral load-carrying structural elements (horizontal diaphragms, shear walls, braced/moment frames) where installation of PV system causes an increase in the design lateral load of more than 10 percent.

    4.   Zoning Review

    Zoning review is required for the installation of PV systems that require a Building Permit or Combination Permit.  In addition, zoning review will be required for PV systems on flat roofs or when any portion of the PV panels is located above the highest roof peak.  Zoning, structure height, brush management, FAA notification and conditions of prior development permits are enforced for the installation of PV systems.

    E.            Historical Review

    Historic review is required for installation of PV systems that also require a Building Permit or combination permit as follows:

    1.            Designated Historic

    If the project involves any parcel with a designated historical resource or is located within the boundaries of an adopted historic district, historical review is required. Please refer to Information Bulletin 581, “Designated Historical Resource Review” for additional Historic Review information.

    2.            Potential Historic Resource

    If the site contains buildings or structures 45 years old or older, plans must be submitted through the Development Services Department for historic review, unless the project scope is exempted per San Diego Municipal Code, Section 143.0212.

    Delivering Your Permit

    Single-family roof-mounted solar PV projects that us the City’s Residential PV Plan Template or Professional Certification are processed for permitting at the Development Services Center located at 1222 First Ave. Customers check in on the third floor, and then can submit plans on the fourth floor by walk-in.  Roof mounted PV systems may also be submitted electronically if they do not require a combination building permit.  All other systems must be submitted on the third floor by appointment.

    Fees

    The following fees have to be paid for permits based on the type of system being proposed. 

    For a

    1.   Professional Certification

    Records Fee………………………………………..$20

    First System/ Inverter Inspection………..$237

    2.   Single Family Duplex/ Townhouse per template

    Records fee………………………………………..$20

    First System / Inverter Plan Check………$175

    First System / Inverter Inspection ………$237

    3Single-Family/Duplex/Townhouse Custom

    Records fee……………………………………$20

    First System/Inverter Plan Check ….$263

    First System / Inverter Inspection….$237

    1. Non-Residential/Multi-Family Residential

    Records Fee ........................................................................ $60

    First 100 kW Plan Check ............................................. $504

    Each Addt’l 100 kW Plan Check ................................ $175

    First 100 kW Inspection .............................................. $339

    Each Addt’l 100 kW Inspection ................................. $136

    Conclusion

    So as you can see, the solar permitting process involves many steps and requires a TON of information.  Solar professionals have been through this process many times and generally know what the city looks for, so can get permits approved much faster.  SunPower by Stellar Solar takes care of all the permitting for all of its customers so they don’t have to worry about the complicated details of this process.

     

    For more information about permitting, go to SanDiego.gov.