Residential Solar Photovoltaic Permit Guide
Using the abundant energy from the sun, Solar Photovoltaic (PV) technology converts sunlight directly into electricity. Increasing the amount of clean renewable energy is a critical component of the Berkeley community efforts to reduce green house gases. Download a flyer version of the Residential Solar Photovoltaic Permit Guide.
Is Solar PV right for your home?
The first step in any solar PV installation is to implement conservation measures to reduce energy use. Conservation reduces expenses, greenhouse gas emissions and minimizes the size of your PV system. For energy savings tips check the PG&E website. Once these measures are in place, the next considerations are your building’s year-round access to the sun’s rays, as well as an appropriate place to mount the panels. Contact the California Solar Initiative for a list of registered installers and make sure to get at least three bids for your project.
Resources & Incentives for Solar
- SmartSolar Program provides individualized technical assistance and online assessments of solar potential for Berkeley residents and businesses. Also check out the solar map!
- California Solar Initiative is a rebate program. The website also includes a list of registered solar electricity contractors, installers and retailers.
- For a complete list of City of Berkeley permit requirements check out the Solar PV Applicant Checklist.
- Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is a reduction in the overall tax liability for individuals. Check with the IRS or your tax professional for more information.
- Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency lists information on state, local, utility, and federal incentives that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency
- See also information about Solar Thermal
What Permits are Required by the City of Berkeley to Install Solar Panels?
All permit applications are available at the Permit Service Center or online through the Online Service Center. For a complete list of requirements please refer to the Solar PV Applicant Checklist.
Solar projects do not require zoning permits or design review (California State Code, Section 65850.5). The Planning Department offers free non-binding design review evaluation of solar equipment installations.
For all building projects requiring Design Review, Planning Department staff will need sufficient information about the solar PV installation to evaluate the proposed building design and how well it works with the solar energy system. Note: Design Review is generally required in the following Zoning Districts: Manufacturing, Commercial, and some projects in R-4 Districts. Check the Planning website to determine the Zoning District of your property and the applicability of Design Review requirements.
Electrical permits are required for all solar PV installations. Please see online for an electrical permit application.
Residential solar electric permits fees are set at the minimum electrical permit fee per installation with no extra charge for electrical plan check fees.
Building Permits and Associated Plan Check Fees
If a building permit is needed to the roof assembly to support the PV system, permit and plan check fees will be based on the valuation of the structural work required. Please see online for a building permit application and building permit checklist.
For a complete list of requirements please refer to the Solar PV Applicant Checklist. Submit three sets of plans, minimum 11" x 17", that include location of equipment, wiring diagram, framing plan of rafters and equipment specification sheets.
Structural plans may be required for reinforcing the roof rafters to carry the additional load. For example, if you have an older building, and the rafters are 2 x 4's and 32" apart, you will need reinforcement. If you have a truss roof with tile and want to add additional load, you will need to consult an engineer.
Fire Department requires that panels be installed at least 18” down from the ridge of the roof on both sides for one and two unit family dwellings. Fire Department approval is required for commercial and multifamily buildings to ensure site-specific access for fire personnel. For more information please contact the City of Berkeley Fire Department at 510-981-5585.
Please note that PG&E and the California Solar Initiative each have their own set of requirements as well!
Why Install Solar PV?
In November 2006 Berkeley voters overwhelmingly approved ballot Measure G to reduce the community’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by the year 2050. By choosing solar electricity, you are helping to green your energy consumption and lower electrical GHG emissions as part of the Climate Action Plan. To further reduce GHG emissions, consider decreasing your natural gas consumption by conducting a home performance test and by installing solar thermal heating. To learn more about Berkeley's Climate Action Plan, please visit: www.cityofberkeley.info/climate or to see how we are doing toward reaching our targets see: www.cityofberkeley.info/climateprogress.
Return to The Office of Energy and Sustainable Development homepage