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San Diego Solar Permit Program

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

San Diego's Revolutionary Solar Permit Fast-Track Initiative


Solar permit in San Diego in front of a house with solar panels

The city of San Diego is making significant strides towards promoting renewable energy adoption. In an effort to streamline and encourage residential solar installations, the city has recently introduced an Instant Permit Program for residential solar projects. This innovative initiative, mandated by the city government, aims to simplify and expedite the permitting process for residents in San Diego and its surrounding areas, including smaller cities like El Cajon, Santee, Chula Vista, and Lemon Grove.


San Diego Leads the Way with Instant Solar Permits and Sustainability Goals

San improved and expedited permitting process for residential solar and battery storage projects is now available to San Diego residents. The City's Development Services Department (DSD) has introduced a new instant permitting system for residential solar projects, facilitating online applications and providing immediate permit approval. This initiative aligns with Mayor Todd Gloria's vision of reducing permitting processing times and progressing towards the city's ambitious target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2035.


Through this program, residents seeking permits for solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage projects, with capacities of up to 38.4 kW for single-family homes and duplexes, can now secure instant permits. This innovative approach relies on a self-certification process, enabling residents to confirm their compliance with building codes, standards, and ordinances. This self-certification approach eliminates the need for the city's review of installation plans. Notably, San Diego has launched this program ahead of the state-mandated deadline established by Senate Bill 379.


The importance of this streamlined permitting process becomes apparent when considering the heightened efficiency it brings to the DSD, which handles roughly 12,000 photovoltaic permit applications annually. This program not only saves valuable time for customers but also enhances overall staff productivity through the automation of the permit issuance process. It underscores the city's broader mission of modernizing its operational processes and systems under the #DigitalDSD initiative, ultimately expediting the development of affordable housing and various projects across San Diego. Residents interested in obtaining permits for solar photovoltaic and battery storage projects can access detailed information through DSD's website, webinars, or virtual appointments.


How the Program Works

The program works by simplifying the permit application process for residential solar projects. Traditionally, this process could take weeks or even months. With the Instant Permit Program, homeowners can obtain permits within a significantly shorter time frame, sometimes within a day or two.


To take advantage of this program, residents can submit their installation plans and permit applications through a dedicated online portal. The city's building department then reviews these plans promptly, ensuring that they comply with safety and regulatory standards. Once approved, residents receive their permits, and they can proceed with their solar installations.


Plan Review Process

The Plan Review Process in San Diego for solar projects is an essential step in obtaining necessary permits for the installation of solar panels on single-family homes. The process includes a thorough structural review to ensure the safety and feasibility of rooftop solar or ground-mounted solar systems.


San Diego's instant permit program aims to streamline the solar permitting process by offering instant approval for certain types of solar energy systems. This program saves customers time and reduces the administrative burden on the development services department.

To obtain an instant permit approval, solar contractors must submit a combination building permit application that includes the necessary structural plans, installation plans, and roof plans. These plans need to be stamped by a professional certification.


The city review of solar installations focuses on meeting the requirements set by the utility company and the city's energy storage regulations. Once the combination permit is submitted, the city's development services department checks the documents for compliance with the building and electrical codes.


San Diegans looking to go solar can take advantage of this efficient and automatic permit process for solar panel installations. The successful permitting of solar projects contributes to the growth of solar energy in San Diego and supports the city's commitment to renewable energy.


Positive Impacts for the Region

The San Diego Solar Permit Program carries a host of benefits for the region. Here are a few key points:

  1. Environmental Impact: By making it easier for residents to adopt solar panels, the program contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the city's overall carbon footprint.

  2. Economic Benefits: The solar industry in San Diego and its surrounding areas is set to grow as more residents opt for solar installations. This translates to job creation and economic growth.

  3. Energy Independence: Solar power reduces reliance on fossil fuels, promoting energy independence and resilience.

  4. Cost Savings: Solar systems can lead to significant cost savings for homeowners through reduced electricity bills and potential incentives.

  5. Community-wide Impact: The inclusion of El Cajon, Santee, Chula Vista, and Lemon Grove in the program ensures that a broader community can participate in the green energy movement.


Public Reaction and Support

The San Diego Solar Permit Program has garnered positive attention and support from both residents and environmental advocates. People are excited about the prospect of an expedited permitting process and the opportunity to contribute to a more sustainable future.

Local businesses and solar installers are also enthusiastic about the program. It streamlines their operations and makes it easier for them to serve their customers. This, in turn, contributes to the growth of the solar industry in the region.


Solar energy permit with a red approved stamp

The Path Forward

As the program gains momentum, it's expected to have a far-reaching impact on the adoption of residential solar installations in San Diego and neighboring communities. The city's commitment to sustainability, paired with the streamlined permit process, sets a positive precedent for other regions to follow.


Residents in El Cajon, Santee, Chula Vista, and Lemon Grove are now in a better position to harness the power of the sun, reduce their carbon footprint, and enjoy the long-term economic benefits of solar panels. This forward-thinking initiative not only simplifies the permit process but also paves the way for a cleaner, more sustainable future for all.


The San Diego Solar Permit Program is a shining example of a local government's dedication to environmental sustainability and the well-being of its residents. By reducing barriers and making it easier for homeowners to embrace solar energy systems, San Diego is not only improving its own future but also setting an example for other communities to follow. With the inclusion of El Cajon, Santee, Chula Vista, and Lemon Grove, the program's positive impact reaches far and wide, benefiting both the environment and the local economy.

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