Solar Photovoltaic (PV)
Reduce before you produce. 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.
Is solar right for your building? The SmartSolar Program, operated by the local nonprofit CESC, provides free, independent advice on solar to Berkeley homeowners and businesses. The SmartSolar Program offers free solar PV assessments, recommendations, and objective analysis of bids.
What permits are required to install solar panels? Electrical permits are required for all solar PV installations. Building permits are only needed if structural work is necessary to support the solar PV system. Solar projects do not require zoning permits or design review. Please note that PG&E and the California Solar Initiative each have their own set of requirements as well!
- The Solar PV System Submittal Requirements provides a complete description of the plans that must be submitted in order to obtain permit(s) for solar PV systems.
- As a member of the East Bay Green Corridor, the City of Berkeley also accepts the standardized plans and checklist from the Green Corridor for residential (1 or 2 dwelling units) solar PV installations in lieu of City permit submittal requirements.
- All solar PV systems must meet fire safety requirements. For any questions regarding Fire Department regulations, please contact the Fire Life Safety Plans Examiner at 510-981-7447.
Application submittal and permit fees Call 510-981-7502 for an appointment to submit application materials and obtain permits for solar PV systems. Residential solar electric permits fees are set at the minimum electrical permit fee per installation with no extra charge for electrical plan check fees. Commercial and multifamily (3 or more units) are subject to electrical plan check fees. If needed, building permit and plan check fees will be based on the valuation of the structural work required.
Be solar ready. New buildings and major remodels that require zoning approval must be solar ready as a condition of obtaining use permits. Being solar ready means that a building has been designed to accommodate for future installation of a PV and/or solar thermal system. See Specifications for Solar Readiness.
Resources & Incentives for Solar
- SmartSolar Program provides free individualized technical assistance and online assessments of solar potential for Berkeley residents and businesses. Also check out the solar map to see all the solar installations in Berkeley.
- California Solar Initiative is a rebate program. The website also includes a list of registered solar electricity contractors, installers and retailers. Be sure to get at least three bids for your project.
- Solar PV System Submittal Requirements details what is needed to obtain City of Berkeley permits for solar PV installations. As a member of the East Bay Green Corridor, the City of Berkeley also accepts the standardized plans and checklists from the Green Corridor in lieu of City permit submittal requirements for residential solar PV installations.
- The Green Corridor's structural engineering guidelines offer engineering tables for roof rafter spans and other technical guidance that may be helpful for planning a residential solar PV installation
- Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency lists information on state, local, utility, and federal incentives that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. For example, information on the current federal tax credit is available at Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit.
- California FIRST provides solar financing for commercial and multifamily buildings.
- Solar Readiness Specifications details requirements for new construction.
- Solar Thermal information on permit requirements for installing solar thermal hot water.
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