Solar energy is an important sustainable energy source that San Franciscans can capture. These systems not only help the environment, but can reduce electricity bills every month.
Check to see if you meet the requirements to apply for a permit for your solar photovoltaic (PV) system.
We are currently piloting the use of the SolarAPP+ web-based application to facilitate the issuance of an electrical permit for some rooftop solar arrays on single and two dwelling homes. The web-based application enables California licensed contractors to bypass plan review and apply for an instant, online electrical permit.
The pilot program is open to the first 30 applicants who qualify and choose to apply for their electrical permit using SolarAPP+. This option will be removed from the website process detailed below once 30 applicants have submitted their information through SolarAPP+. At the conclusion of the pilot, we will send a survey to participants as part of our evaluation of the program.
Check if you can apply for a PV system permit
Only licensed contractors with the following license types may apply for a solar PV system permit:
B contractors may also apply for a solar PV system permit if it is for a brand new building or a substantial remodel. (See the San Francisco electrical code supplemental regulations about our restrictions.)
Check your contractor license type.
Determine the type of permit needed for your solar PV system
Some solar projects require an electrical permit and building permit while other projects can obtain an electrical permit using SolarAPP+ or by submitting solar PV plans to the Department of Building Inspection (DBI).
Go to step 3A - Building Permit to apply for a building permit for your solar PV system if your project meets all the following criteria:
- Is being installed on a newly constructed building.
- Includes a battery energy storage system over 20kWh.
You will also need to obtain an electrical permit after the building permit is issued.
Go to step 3B - SolarAPP+ to get an approval ID, checklist, and specification sheet enabling the issuance of an instant, online electrical permit from DBI if your project meets all the following criteria:
- Is proposed for an existing single or two family home (R3 occupancy).
- Does not include an energy storage system (a battery).
- Is more than 4KWdc.
- Does not include a ballasted or ground-mounted PV system.
- Is not a new service or panel upgrade.
- Meets all the additional technical specifications detailed here.
Go to step 3C – Online Electrical Permit to apply for an instant electrical permit from DBI for your solar PV system if your project meets all the following criteria:
- Is 4KWdc and under.
- Is not ballasted or ground-mounted.
- Is not going to use optional plan check by DBI.
Go to step 3D – PV Plans to apply for an electrical permit for your solar PV system if your project meets all the following criteria:
- Includes an energy storage system (a battery) 20kWh or less.
- Is over 4KWdc.
- Is ballasted or ground-mounted.
- Is a new service or panel upgrade.
Apply for your building or electrical permit
3A. Building permit
For newly constructed buildings, the solar PV system design is to be submitted as an addendum to the associated building permit.
Learn more about the In-House Permit Review process for building permits
If not already registered with SolarAPP+, please use this portal to sign-up for an account and apply for a solar project.
Once you have obtained a SolarAPP+ approval ID, checklist, and specification sheet for your project, go to the Electrical Permitting and Inspection Scheduling page, then log in and select SolarAPP+ permits to apply using the SolarAPP+ ID and your California contractor's license.
- If not already registered as a contractor with DBI, please use this link to sign-up for an account so you can apply for and receive your electrical permit online.
Once your electrical permit has been issued, proceed to step 4 on this page.
Online Electrical Permit
3D. PV Plans
Prepare your PV plans using this format.
Use our solar permit application PDF generator to complete your application form.
Email your application to DBI.email@example.com.
Use the subject line “New PV Application from (Your Name or Project Name).”
Include these email attachments:
- PDF of your completed application form.
- Plan drawings for projects more than 4kWdc.
- Data sheets for projects more than 4kWdc.
- Structural review for projects more than 4kWdc.
Provide structural drawings and calculations stamped and signed by a California-licensed civil or structural engineer, along with the following information:
- Number and type roof coverings installed
- Type of roof framing, size of members, and spacing
- Weight of panels, support locations, and method of attachment
- Framing plan and details for any work necessary to strengthen the existing roof structure
- Site-specific structural calculations
- Where an approved racking system is used, provide documentation showing manufacturer of the rack system, maximum allowable weight the system can support, attachment method to the roof or ground and product evaluation information or structural design for the rack system
We will review your application and plans and email you with our response.
If something is missing or unclear, make the necessary changes and return by email.
We will email you when your approved plans and permits are ready for pick up.
Then come to the Permit Center to collect and pay for your permit.
You must come in person – phone and electronic payments are not accepted for PV Plans permit fees.
Join the queue to see a permit tech.
Provide your PV Plans number.
You will pay the permit fee, and collect your permit and approved plans. Your approved plans are also attached to your final email.
Install your approved solar PV system
Once you have a permit, you may install your solar panel or PV system.
Follow all notes on the cover sheet and plans. (PV Plans only)
Get your system inspected
When installation is complete, you will need to get your solar PV system inspected prior to PG&E connecting it to the electrical grid.
5A. Building permit holders should call the San Francisco Fire Department district inspector that reviewed their plans. The inspector’s phone number is located on the approval stamp on the plans and application. A DBI electrical inspector needs to approve the electrical work prior to requesting the final inspection by a DBI building inspector.
5B. Permit holders using SolarAPP+ are required to get their solar PV system inspected by the Fire Department prior to the DBI electrical inspection.
SolarAPP+ permit holders should call (415) 554-8927 to schedule a Fire Department inspection. You will need to provide the scope of work, contractor contact information, SolarAPP+ approval ID, printed checklist and specification sheet, and the DBI electrical permit number.
5C. Online electrical permit holders for solar PV systems 4kWdc and under can schedule a DBI electrical inspection online using the link below.
5D. PV Plans permit holders for solar PV systems over 4kWdc, a Fire Department review and inspection is required prior to the DBI electrical inspection. These permit holders should call (415) 554-8927 to schedule a Fire Department inspection.
After the Fire Department inspection and approval, schedule a DBI electrical inspection.
During the Fire Department and DBI electrical inspections, the permit holder will need to provide Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliant roof access, the result of the SF Fire inspection, and, if applicable, the printed SolarAPP+ approval ID, printed checklist, and specification sheet.
Your approved plans must also be available onsite for your inspection.
The inspector will either:
- Approve the installation, or
- Provide corrective actions
Take your proof of inspection to your utility provider to have your solar panel connected to the grid.
Last updated February 9, 2023