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Project Guide for Solar Photovoltaic & Hot Water Panel Systems

This guide is intended to provide you with an overview of the permitting process for installing solar panels, inverters, battery storage systems, and/or other equipment or devices related to solar photovoltaic (PV) and hot water panel systems.

Note: Quick Permits cannot be issued for any solar PV or hot water panel systems.
 

Help Me Get Started . . .

Before you start your project, you need to know what regulations apply to your property and what factors may impact your project. You'll need to consider:

Historic Landmark Status

Any project that involves changes to the exterior of landmark structures or properties in historic landmark districts must be reviewed by Landmark Preservation staff before you begin. The appropriate zoning, building, curb cut, or revocable permits needed for the project will be issued only after design review has been completed and the project has been approved. To determine your property’s landmark status, use the DevelopDENVER tool to the right. Then, visit the Design Review web page for more information.

Zoning

Zoning establishes standards for things such as the size and location of structures and acceptable uses for your property. Before you begin construction, you need to be sure your project is in compliance with the Denver Zoning Code. Use the DevelopDENVER tool to the right to determine the zoning for your property. In the results, click on your zone district for descriptions and definitions; then, click on your neighborhood context for more information on zoning in your area. 

NOTE: If your photovoltaic panels are flush-mounted per the definition in Section 13.3 of the Denver Zoning Code, no zoning permit is required.

Building Code

Denver Building Code provides minimum standards for building in order to safeguard public safety, health and welfare. The permitting and inspection process ensures that all home projects meet these standards and that all dwellings are safe and habitable at the time of construction.

Listed in the order they must be obtained. All permits must be in hand and at site before work may begin.

1. A valid City of Denver Contractor’s License or having passed a Homeowner’s Exam

2. Landmark Certificate of Appropriateness (if applicable)

Landmark approval is required before you obtain electrical permits, if the structure on which the solar system will be mounted is a designated structure for preservation or is in a district designated for preservation under the provisions of the Denver Revised Municipal Code (DRMC) Chapter 30. Use the DevelopDENVER map to find out if your site is a landmark/historic district, and then visit Landmark's Design Review webpage for more information.

3. Zoning permit (if applicable)

  • A zoning permit is required if the panels will be installed at an angle to the slope of the roof and do not meet the definition of “solar panel, flush mounted” per Denver Zoning Code Section 13.3, or 
  • if a generator or battery backup system is a part of the project and will be located on the exterior of the structure.

What to submit

Zoning permits for PV panels, battery storage systems, or other elements related to a solar panel system on a single-family home or duplex are reviewed by the single-family/duplex walk-through counter. Bring a site plan and elevations that show, at a minimum, the PV system/panels' height, bulk, and setback.

4. Electrical permit

For systems on single-family homes/duplexes under 10 kW in size, plans must be logged in electronically via e-permits.

  1. Select Development Services > Apply for a Permit > Building Log
  2. Under Project Classification, select Commercial or Multi-family Building
  3. Under Project Scope, select Tenant Finish/Remodel
  4. Check the Commercial Walk Through Project box

For systems on single-family homes/duplexes 10 kW in size and over, stamped and signed engineered plans must be logged in electronically via e-permits. 

  1. Select Development Services > Apply for a Permit > Building Log
  2. Under Project Classification, select Commercial or Multi-family Building
  3. Under Project Scope, select Tenant Finish/Remodel
  4. DO NOT check the Commercial Walk Through Project box as this will cause a delay in processing

For all Commercial PV systems and Townhomes regardless of kW, stamped and signed engineered plans must be logged in electronically via e-permits.

  1. Select Development Services > Apply for a Permit > Building Log
  2. Under Project Classification, select Commercial or Multi-family Building
  3. Under Project Scope, select Tenant Finish/Remodel
  4. DO NOT check the Commercial Walk Through Project box as this will cause a delay in processing

Note: All PV systems must be logged in as a Building Log, NOT as a Quick Permit.

What to submit

For the electrical review, you will need two sets of plans that include:

NOTE: If you plan to install a PV solar system on your house or duplex that is rated 10 kW and above, you will need to provide all of the documentation above as well as the stamp and signature of a Colorado-licensed professional engineer on the one-line diagram and calculations. 

You may use the Permit Process for PV System forms prepared by the Solar America Board for Codes and Standards to provide the required information for the commercial electrical review, which can be found on the board's website.

5. Plumbing permit (if applicable) –

A plumbing permit (a Quick Permit) is required for solar hot water systems at single-family and duplex properties. Commercial/multifamily solar hot water systems cannot be done on a quick permit and must instead be logged in for review.

Estimate Fees
Zoning and building permit fees are based on valuation of the work to be completed, including the labor and materials. View the permit fee schedules to estimate the fees required for your project. Fees for solar panels are capped at $50 for the electrical permit. 

All approved construction plans and documents, permits, and inspector signature card must be available on-site upon request.

Typical inspections for installation of solar panels include the following:

  • Rough Utilities (Electrical and Plumbing)
  • Final Utilities (Electrical and Plumbing)
    • Note: You must provide a ladder at the time of inspection for all roof-mounted inspections
  • Zoning inspection required for PV systems with tilt-up panels on roof
  • NIS inspection required where PV roof panels are within 1 foot of the maximum height, or where panels are located near bulk plane edge

Building code policy IRC M2301 (PDF) details PV inspection requirements. Make sure to download and review it before scheduling an inspection.

Note: The inspections listed above may vary depending on the complexity of your project. You will be advised as to which inspections your project requires through the permitting process.

This guide provides new 2018 IRC requirements generally necessary to apply for electrical permits related to residential solar photovoltaic (PV) panel systems in Denver. As every project is unique, further information may be required to show compliance with current codes and policies. Additional solar panel plan requirements can be found in the Solar Energy System Permits Policy IRC M2301 (PDF). This guide should not be used as a substitute for codes, standards, or regulations.

The following information is provided to better clarify the required locations of residential roof access, pathways, and setback requirements for rooftop PV systems in accordance with the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC) Section R324.6. The intent of this code section is to provide pathways to specific areas of the roof, provide smoke ventilation opportunity areas, and to provide emergency egress from the roof. Illustrations are provided at the end of this guide.

New Residential Roof Mounted Solar PV Panel System Access and Pathways Requirements

Detached carports, shade structures, flat roofs, and detached garages are exempt from solar PV panel system pathways and ridge setbacks. 

Solar PV panel systems should be installed in a way that provides no less than two (2) 36” wide access pathways located on separate roof slopes from the lowest edge of the roof to the ridge. 

For each roof slope with solar PV panels, a 36” pathway from the lowest edge of the roof to the ridge is required on one of the following:

a) On the same roof slope that the solar PV panels are located,

b) On an adjacent roof slope, or

c) Straddling the same and adjacent roof slopes.

At least one pathway is required on the street or driveway side of the roof.

Pathways should be installed in areas with minimal obstruction from mechanical equipment, vent pipes, and conduit.

If 1/3 or less of the total roof area contains solar PV panels, an 18” clear setback is required on both sides of a horizontal ridge.

For homes with sprinkler systems where the solar PV panels take up 2/3 or less of the total roof area, an 18” setback is required on both sides of a horizontal ridge.

If 1/3 or more of the total roof area contains solar PV panels, a 36” clear setback is required on both sides of a horizontal ridge.

For homes with sprinkler systems where the solar PV panels take up 2/3 or more of the total roof area, a 36” setback is required on both sides of a horizontal ridge. 

Solar PV panels cannot be located below an emergency escape and rescue opening. A minimum 36” wide pathway must be provided to the emergency escape and rescue opening.

Pathways should be located over areas that can support the weight of fire fighters accessing the roof.

Plan Submittal Checklist

  • A site plan showing the location of all buildings on the property. 
  • Plans shall show the location of the layout of the solar panels on the roof. 
  • Plans shall include both the IRC required roof access and pathways setbacks. 
  • Plans shall include dimensions and shading/hatching for clarity. 
  • Plans shall show the locations of all roof mounted mechanical equipment, vent pipes, and other equipment located on the roof that could obstruct the pathways. 
  • Specify the applicable codes.

Who Will Be Doing the Work?

Decide whether you plan to complete the project yourself or hire a licensed contractor to complete the job for you.

Do It Yourself

Do-It-YourselfYou may need to pass a Homeowner's exam to demonstrate proficiency in specific trades in order to get a permit to do the work yourself. 

You will also need to meet a set of requirements established by the Denver Building Code and the Building Department Policy ADMIN 131.3 governing homeowner completed work. This policy can be found on our Building Codes, Forms and Policies page. 

Contractor

Contractors Use the Contractor license search to see if your contractor has obtained a contractor's license from the City and County of Denver. 

 

To view other considerations, see our Homeowners' webpage.

 
Home Projects

Every project is different.  Depending upon the complexity of your project, the permit requirements and inspection process may vary from the information presented in this guide.  If you have any questions, please contact us.

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