Getting Started with Solar Photovoltaic

Are you planning to install a solar photovoltaic (PV) system on your property? The installation of solar PV is regulated by the Zoning Ordinance and requires approval of a building permit. These systems are an accessory use to residential, agricultural, civic, commercial, or industrial uses (except if approved by a Major Use Permit).

The following main components are part of the process to obtain your permit for a solar PV system:

 

ZONING 

Solar PV on-site: Solar PV, on-site (including roof-mounted) is when the energy produced is utilized within/on the parcel where the photovoltaic is located.

Solar PV off-site: Solar PV, off-site is when the energy produced is transferred to a different parcel than the one where the photovoltaic is located and operated.

  • Solar PV, off-site less than 10 acres is regulated per Section 6952.b.1 of the Zoning Ordinance and requires approval of an Administrative Permit.
  • Solar PV, off-site greater than 10 acres is regulated per Section 6952.b.2 of the Zoning Ordinance and requires approval of a Major Use Permit.
    • A complete Major Use Permit application submittal package can be found on the County of San Diego’s web-site here: Photovoltaic Off-Site Over 10 Acres
    • Additionally, Planning & Development Services requires applicants to participate in a mandatory Major Project Pre-Application Meeting for Major Use Permits. The mandatory pre-application consultation is expected to set reasonable expectations and identify major issues early in the process in order to avoid redesign, rewrites and additional work later in the process.  More information is available here: Major Project Pre-App

For for additional zoning information: Zoning Ordinance (search for section "6952" and see subsection b)

 

BUILDING 

Form PDS 441a outlines how to obtain a building permit.

Before preparing the plot plan for ground-mounted solar PV systems, please review the minimum requirements outlined in form PDS 090.  For roof-mounted systems, please review the residential building code plan check corrections list for roof-mounted solar PV systems, form PDS 074.

Extensive additional information is available on the Building Division's Building Forms and Handouts page.

 

COST 

Residential Solar PV Building Permits
Currently, the cost to plan check/permit a residential solar PV building permit is waived by the County of San Diego. However, fees for residential solar PV building permits could be incurred if the Department of Environmental Health and/or the Department of Public Works need to review the building plans.  This is typically only required for ground mount solar PV.

Off-Site Solar PV Discretionary Permits
In addition to the cost above for residential building permits, off-site solar PV installations will require a deposit to process the mandatory discretionary permit. For deposit information of discretionary permits please see form PDS 369.

It is also recommended that you contact the Department of Environmental Health at (858) 565-5173 and the Department of Public Works at (85) 694-2055 regarding possible or additional fees.

Commercial Solar PV Building Permits
If the solar PV project is to be used by a commercial business or for commercial purposes, building permit fees are typically not waived as with residential projects. To calculate the cost of commercial solar PV building permit fees, please contact the Building Department (858) 565-5920, or (888) 336-7553.

 

TIMELINE 

On-Site:
Residential on-site solar PV building permits are typically processed over-the-counter (OTC) if all documents have been completed properly and the plans have been prepared correctly. Please note that OTC does not necessarily mean the permit will be issued the same day, only that it does not have to be submitted for review. If corrections are required in order to complete the permit, the applicant will need to make appropriate corrections and return for a subsequent review.

Please note that large residential solar PV project review cannot be done OTC, and will be required to submit plans for building permit review. Commercial solar PV projects, whether roof or ground mounted must be submitted for plan-check review and cannot be processed OTC.

Off-Site:
Approval of a discretionary permit is required before a building permit can be issued for an off-site solar PV project. Every effort will be made to process the required discretionary permit (Administrative Permit or Major Use Permit) as quickly as possible. Approval of the discretionary permit must be met and all conditions must be satisfied before a building permit can be issued.



Acknowledgement: This material is based upon work supported by the Department of Energy under Award Number DE-EE0000902.
Disclaimer: This report was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof.