If you are looking for solar panel installation in City of Los Angeles and the relative utility that serves its territory is the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), then this article is for you. The associated links will help you learn more about the overall process, the available solar panel incentives, permitting process, interconnection process and Permit to operation (PTO).

Here is contact information for the City of Los Angeles and it relative departments related to solar power system installation:

City of Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety

Phone: 3-1-1 (within City of Los Angeles)

Phone: (213) 473-3231

Solar Department in Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

Phone: 1-800-DIAL-DWP (1-800-484-0433)

The Overall Process:

  1. Find your solar installer: This is extremely important to your solar panel installation success, so it is important for you to find the right solar installer. It is not solely the matter of working with an installer, but more so about working with the right solar installer. Not all solar installers are made equal. In order to find the right installer for your solar project, you should consult with an unbiased Energy Advisor who is knowledgeable about the available incentives, solar panel brands, solar inverters, solar loans, etc. 
  2. Find your best financing option: Your solar financing must be tailored to your current financial situation. All contractors develop relationship with financing companies, but not all financing options are equal. Hence, it is always better to work with the right solar installer who carries your best interest and the right solar financing/loans.
  3. Apply for incentives: Your EAH Energy Advisor will explain your incentives for you, but timing is key, and it’s important to keep in mind the LADWP incentives are expiring soon.
  4. Complete Permitting Process: This must be done by your solar installer and it is extremely important for them to be fully familiar with the process, otherwise it will turn out to be a lengthy process.
  5. Once the permit is issued, your installer will install your solar power system, and afterwards it will be time for interconnecting your solar system to the utility grid.
  6. Finally, you should submit your incentive claims to be processed.

Permit process:

The City of Los Angeles requires a building permit for the structural support of all solar energy device installations with the exception of the following list below. Their requirements, regulations and codes may change from time to time, so it is highly recommended to work with an experienced and licensed solar installer or by visiting LADBS for more up to date information.

A building permit is not required when all of the following requirements are met:

  1. Solar device is roof mounted and does not exceed the existing building height at the highest point,
  2. The solar energy device system weight does not exceed four pounds per square foot,
  3. The solar energy device is installed within 18” of the roof immediately below,
  4. The maximum concentrated load imposed by a solar energy device support onto the roof structure is a maximum of 60 pounds (0.18 kN); and
  5. For wood construction, the maximum spacing for supports of the solar energy devices are be 48” on center, and are anchored to solid roof rafters or to solid blocking with a minimum of one 5/16” diameter lag screw embedded a minimum of 21/2”, or as recommended by the manufacturer, (whichever is more stringent). For other type of construction, the support shall be approved by the Department.

Building Plan Check

Structural support of solar energy devices requiring a building permit are to be submitted to a building plan check for approval. You may apply for Express permit if your permit does not require a plan check.

A plan check with LADBS is required if your solar installation project is more complex and does not meet the requirements for an Express Permit.

Complete plans are tol be submitted showing dimensions and location of the supporting structure in relation to the property lines and any adjacent building.

  • Substantiating design calculations are required for supporting member sizes, connection details, and design loads imposed on the roof or other support.
  • Where the solar panel/collector surface inhibits superimposed concentrated loads, the weight of the collector may replace part of the code-required live load.
  • Regardless of the weight of the solar panel or collector, a minimum of one-half of code required live load should be used for design.
  • The wind load on the vertical projection of the collector is to be included in the analysis.
  • Provide a note on the plan, “No guardrails are required for installed solar energy devices pursuant to LAMC 91.1013.5.”
  • All roof penetrations are to be sealed using approved methods and products to prevent water leakage.

Electrical Plan Check/Electrical Permit

  • Electrical Plan Check: Electrical plan check is required for all photovoltaic system installations.
  • Permits: An electrical permit is required for installation of solar photovoltaic systems.

Express Permits Exception: Plan check is not required if all of the conditions listed below are met:

  1. The installation is in a one or two family dwelling.
  2. A maximum of 2 strings are installed per inverter.
  3. The total capacity of the photovoltaic system being installed is 10 KW or less.
  4. No DC combiner box is installed (other than the box that is part of and is listed with the inverter).
  5. System contains only inverters with isolation transformers.
  6. No GFCI or AFCI overcurrent devices are installed in the Alternate Current (AC) output of the inverter.
  7. Modules shall be roof mounted crystalline or multi-crystalline material.
  8. AC Power system shall be 120/240 volts single phase.
  9. The minimum service panel size should meet one of the following:
    1. 100 amps for systems with a maximum 20 amperes dedicated AC branch circuit, or
    2. 150 amps for systems having a maximum 30 (or two 15) amperes dedicated AC branch circuit(s), or
    3. 200 amps for systems having a maximum 40 (or two 20) amperes dedicated AC branch circuit(s).
  10. The rating of service panel shall not exceed 225 amperes.
  11. No AC modules, storage batteries, hybrid systems, or microinverters are installed.

If the above conditions are met, you can submit Form E and Form EPv to the express permit counter.

Permit for Photovoltaic Systems which do not require an Electrical Plan Check (Express Permits):

  • Prior to permit issuance, the Express Permit Counter staff is to refer all permit applications for photovoltaic systems to the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) for approval. In addition, the Express Permit Counter staff will initialize the permit application for photovoltaic system(s), create a clearance summary sheet for Zoning Approval, and direct customers to the Zoning counter to obtain clearance approval.

Fire Department and Zoning approval

LAFD approval is required for all solar photovoltaic systems (solar power systems) permits. LAFD’s installation guidelines are available at LAFD Website.

All Express Permits and electrical plan checks must have an approval from the Zoning Counter for a clearance.

  • It must be determined by the zoning staffs if the site is within a Specific Plan, HPOZ, ICO, CRA, or if it involves a historical monument (i.e. CEQA review) and must refer customers to the appropriate agency by creating the required clearances, if clearance approval is required.
  • Once all the clearances are approved by the appropriate agency, the Zoning Plan Check Counter staff shall approve the zoning clearance in PCIS and direct customers to the Express Permit Counter (for Express permits) or to the Electrical Plan Check counter (for electrical plan check applications) to complete the process.

Construction of your solar power system and City Inspections:

Once all of the mentioned permits and clearances are issued, then your selected solar installer can install the solar panels for your house. Upon completion of your installation, LADBS and LADF inspections start. You or your solar contractor must contact building and safety for inspection.

LADWP solar inspection

Once your incentive payment claim is submitted, a solar inspection will be initiated upon completion of all the required documents and steps. The inspector schedules an appointment to visit the job site to verify the system specification and installation details. Once it is confirmed by the inspector that everything has been done by code and in compliance by the approved plans, then the inspector will install net meter and remove lock, but the system cannot be turned on until the final approval of the solar installation is submitted to the solar group by the inspector.

Finally, there is no question that it is a great decision to install a solar power system for your house, but the process is complex and confusing. That is why it is recommended to consult with an experienced, unbiased and licensed Energy Advisor who can explain your options clearly and help you choose the right solar installer, the right equipment type, and walk you through the process from start to finish. You can simply contact us to consult with an independent energy advisor.

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