Solar panels atop homes in California are subject to a standardized permitting process in the state. © Simone/

Across the 18,000 unique local jurisdictions in the United States, photovoltaic (PV) systems are subject to a variety of rules regulating system type, size, height, location requirements, and more. While these rules are meant to ensure public safety and adherence to engineering standards, they may create complexities and inconsistencies, which deter widespread solar deployment. These processes may also create added responsibilities for administrators, who must assess and approve new PV applications, which adds to system costs and project development timelines. A 2011 report quantified the financial impact of disparate regulations, and found that standardization could save $1 billion for residential PV installation costs over 5 years.

Key topics and strategies:

  • Standardized or Streamlined Permits are produced by states and offered to local jurisdictions, to create a consistent permitting process and avoid duplicating work. See examples from New York State and California
  • Online databases for permitting resources, in order to consolidate necessary information, regulations, and steps for installation (e.g. Kansas City, San Jose, Berkeley, Pima County)
  • State laws requiring the public release of fees, promoting transparency and fairness in the regulatory process. Such laws have been passed in Colorado and California
  • Creation of inspection checklists to simplify this process and ensure consistency across inspectors. In 2018, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council released a Model Inspection Checklist for Rooftop PV.