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Development Services

From Concept to Construction

Phone: 503-823-7300

Email: bds@portlandoregon.gov

1900 SW 4th Ave, Portland, OR 97201

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Residential Solar Permits

You will find information on this page about installing a solar electric system or a solar water heating system on your house or accessory structure. Solar electric systems are also called solar photovoltaic systems or PV systems. 



Getting Started

If your property is located in a plan district, historic district, or conservation zone, there may be zoning regulations that determine where you can locate solar electric or solar water heating systems on your roof. You can Find Your Zoning or you can visit the Planning and Zoning staff at the Development Services Center to determine the specific limits applicable to your property.

A building permit is required for all solar energy system installations. Depending on whether your project is a solar electric system, or a solar water heating system, an electrical or plumbing permit will also be required.

The Bureau of Development Services sells a "Residential Combination" permit package. This allows you to call for all inspections using just the Building Permit (RS) IVR number and pay for all the permits at one time. You will need to submit the trade (mechanical, electrical, and/or plumbing) application(s) signed either by you, if you are doing these portions of the work yourself, or by your licensed subcontractors. If you do not have your completed subcontractor forms when you are applying for your residential permit (RS) you will have to apply for trade permits separately from the building permit. Sub-contractors that you hire must be registered with the State of Oregon and carry the correct licenses in association with their trade.

Your project will be reviewed under provisions of the current Oregon Solar Installation Specialty Code (OSISC) and must be installed to meet or exceed the minimum code standards as outlined in the National Electrical Code (NEC). View more information on building codes.


Determine what your fees will be

If your project meets all the prescriptive requirements of the OSISC, the fee for the building permit portion will be $263.15. If your project does not follow the prescriptive path and structural calculations are required, the fee for the building permit portion will be $553.74.

The trade permit fees are based on the system size or fixture count, as indicated on the current trade permit applications.

Examples (through June 30, 2015):   

  Building Electrical Total
The fees for a prescriptive, 3.5kW solar system $263.15 $153.44 $416.59
The fees for a non-prescriptive, 3.5 kW solar system $553.74 $153.44 $707.18
The fees for a prescriptive, 5.5kW solar system $263.15 $218.40 $481.55
The fees for a non-prescriptive, 5.5 kW solar system $553.74 $218.40 $772.14 
The fees for a prescriptive, solar water heating system $263.15 $106.40 $369.55
The fees for a non-prescriptive, solar water heating system $553.74 $106.40 $660.14

Incentives and Tax Credits

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) maintains information about the incentives and tax credits available to Oregon homeowners.  

You can also visit Energy Trust of Oregon’s site directly for information regarding incentives and financing.

Leasing Vs. Buying
When you purchase a solar electric system outright, it is your responsibility to keep your system in good working order. If you choose to lease solar, whichever company you choose to work with will own the system and will be responsible for performing repairs and maintenance. This method offers a smaller upfront out-of-pocket commitment and the lease, or power purchasing agreement, is for a specific period of time. At the end of the lease, you are given the option to purchase the system or have it removed. For more information please visit Bureau of Planning and Sustainability website.

Net Metering
Oregon law allows all utility customers to generate their own electricity and reduce their electricity bills through installing a photovoltaic energy system. Your utility provider will switch out your existing utility meter for a bidirectional "net" meter which tracks the power you acquire from the utility, and what you send back to the grid. The power you use from your utility is offset by the power you send to grid and you are only charged for the difference or the "net”. If more power is generated than used in a billing period, your bill will show no kilowatt hour usage charges, and you will only be responsible for basic utility service charges. For more information visit Energy Trust of Oregon’s site directly.


Applying For My Permit

A note for Homeowners: In general, your solar contractor will coordinate the necessary permits and inspections required for your solar installation. For information on how to choose a solar contractor, please visit http://energytrust.org/residential/find-a-contractor/solar/

The following information must be submitted when applying for a permit to install a solar electric or water heating system. Since every project is unique there may be situations where you will be asked to provide additional information.

  • Completed building permit application
  • Completed electrical renewable energy permit application and/or plumbing permit application
  • Simple site, architectural and structural plans indicating:
    • Location of PV or solar water heating system
    • Roof framing and module system racking attachment
    • Access requirements of section 304.9 of the Oregon Solar Installation Specialty Code
    • Building height and PV system height.
  • Structural calculations prepared by an Oregon registered engineer verifying adequacy of the structure’s roof framing, strut or frame supporting the rails, attachment of the rail to the support, and the attachment to the structure’s roof framing.

OR

  • Completed checklist and submittal requirements for prescriptive installations if the system meets all the prescriptive requirements of the OSISC.

To submit for a permit, bring these forms, and two copies of site, architectural, and structural plans (for the area of proposed work and areas affected by such work) along with the permit fees to the Development Services Center.

Things to Consider

Electrical Plan Review
If the solar electric system produces more than 25 KW an electrical plan review will be required. Allow up to ten business days for this review to be completed. If electrical plan review is required, submit two copies of the plans containing the following minimum information:                    

  • One-line Diagram signed by Electrical Engineer or Oregon Electrical Supervising Electrician.
  • Site plan showing layout of the photovoltaic array.
  • Calculations (show all work, if applicable) showing the maximum photovoltaic system voltage, maximum photovoltaic source circuit currents, maximum photovoltaic output circuit currents, inverter output circuit current and the stand-alone inverter input circuit current.
  • System components manufacturers specifications sheets (“cut sheet”) of the module(s), photovoltaic wire, combiner box/disconnect(s), inverter(s), and any other components being installed in the system.

Interconnection with the Utilities

Regardless of whether or not your project requires electrical plan review, the Utilities (Pacific Power and Portland General Electric) will require electrical information before you apply for interconnection or net-metering. It is easiest to gather this information during the design phase of your project.

Portland General Electric requires an inverter specification sheet. In addition, your system may require a 24-hour accessible, PGE-lockable, AC disconnect switch based on its Maximum AC Output.

Service Type Maximum   AC Output Permitted without a Disconnect Switch
240 Volts,   Single-Phase, 3 Wire 7.2 kW
120/208 Volts, 3-Phase, 4 Wire 10.5 kW
120/240 Volts, 3-Phase 4 Wire 12.5 kW
277/480 Volts, 3-Phase 4 Wire 25.0 kW

If your site requires a disconnect switch, you will need to include:

  • One-line electrical diagram showing all protective devices between (and including) the net metering system and the PGE meter, and
  • Site plan showing the proposed location of the disconnect switch and providing the distance between this disconnect and the PGE meter. This distance is to not exceed ten feet (10’) unless other arrangements have been made with PGE.

Pacific Power requires an inverter specification sheet and a simple one-line diagram showing

  • The location of Pacific Power’s meter
  • The location of the disconnect switch 

You can find more information about interconnection with the Utilities at https://www.portlandgeneral.com/renewables_efficiency/generate_power/home/default.aspx and https://www.pacificpower.net/env/nmcg/osip.html.


Plan Review Process

Plan reviewers from the Bureau of Development Services will participate in the review of your plans.

The review groups that will check a solar installation include:

  • Planning and Zoning
  • Life Safety Review
  • Structural Review
  • Electrical Review (for projects over 25 kva)

In most cases, simple solar installations can be reviewed and issued “over the counter”. Depending on the day, you can plan to spend a couple of hours in the Development Services Center to process your permit and leave with an issued permit the same day. If the project is not simple enough the plans will be taken in for review.

Checksheets
A checksheet is sent to the applicant when a reviewer needs additional information or a correction has to be made to the plans. When you have gathered the additional information or made the corrections, bring the plans/information to the Development Services Center. Reviewers will be notified that a checksheet response has been received and the review will continue. More information on checksheets.

Status Reports
Status reports are available after your project has been assigned to reviewers. Status reports show all reviews and include the reviewer’s name and phone number. To obtain a status report, call (503) 823-7000 and select option four to have a status report faxed to you or call (503) 823-7357 to have one mailed to you.

Permit Issued
When the last technical review is approved, your permit will be pre-issued. You will be contacted when your permit is ready, and of your final fee total. Fees may be paid by cash, check, Visa or MasterCard or American Express.

If your permit is ready for issuance, you may pick up your permit between 8:00 am - 3:00 pm, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, or between 8am -12pm on Thursday, at Permitting Services, located on the 2nd floor of1900 SW 4th Avenue, Portland, OR. For more information call (503) 823-7357.


Inspections

The yellow inspection card lists all the inspections you could possibly need during your construction project, and what work needs to be done first. The following inspections will be required for the installation of a solar system:

Building 

  • IVR Code 299: Final Structural
  • IVR Code 99: Final Building

Electrical (For Solar Electric)

  • IVR Code 145: Circuits/Feeders
  • IVR Code 120: Permanent Electrical Service/Reconnect
  • IVR Code 199: Final Electrical

Plumbing (For Solar Water Heating)

  • IVR Code 340: Water Heater
  • IVR Code 399: Final Plumbing 

More information on residential inspections

Request an inspection


Applications & Handouts