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Planning permission for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems

Updated December 2016: In recent years there have been some major changes to the UK planning system mostly in favour of installing renwewables. The planning permission requirements for installing solar panels and solar PV systems have in most cases been simplified and relaxed for most residential, commercial and agricultural solar PV system installations.

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Planning permission for solar PV systems supplying residential properties

The key piece of legislation effecting planning permission for the installation of solar panels for residential properties is The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Ammendment) (England) Order 2008. This ammendement clasifies the installation of a residential solar PV or solar thermal system as 'permitted development' meaning planning permission is not required before work commences assuming that the installation fulfills the following conditions:

Roof Mounted Solar PV Panel Installation

Roof mounted solar panel installations on houses:

  • The solar PV array must not protude more than 200mm above the roof line;
  • The solar PV array must not be higher than the highest part of the roof excluding chimneys;
  • The solar PV array must not face onto or be visible from the highway if located within a conservation area or a world heritage site;
  • As far as practicable the array should be sited to minimise the effect on the external appearance of the building.
Roof Mounted Solar PV Panel Installation on a Stables

Roof mounted solar panel Installations on garages / sheds / stables and other outbuildings:

Assuming that the outbuildings are already built and they are located within the curtilage of a residential property such as barns, garages, sheds and other outbuildings the installation of a solar PV system is classified as 'permitted develpment' with the same conditions applicable as to houses (see above).

Ground Mounted Solar PV Panel Installation

Ground Mounted Installations

The installation of small ground Mounted solar PV systems comes under 'permitted development' when:

  • The solar PV array must be no more than 4m high;
  • The solar PV array must be installed more than 5m from the property boundary;
  • The size of the solar PV array must not exceed 9m sq (4-5 large solar panels);
  • The solar PV array must not face onto or be visible from the highway if located within a conservation area or a world heritage site.

Ground mounted systems of greater than 9m sq (4-5 large solar panels) will require planning permission.

Solar PV Panel Carport

Solar PV Canopies & Solar PV Carport Installations

The installation of solar PV canopies and carports may or may not come under 'permitted development' depending on the nature and size of the installation and the local authority.

In general, considerations when building solar PV carports and canopies to be aware of include:

Solar PV Panel Canopy
  • Carport and canopies should be open on at least two sides;
  • The carport or canopy should not extend further than the front of the house;
  • The carport or canopy should have a coverage of under 30m2;
  • The carport or canopy should be under 4m high (highest point);
  • The carport or canopy should be no wider than half the width of the original house;
  • The carport or canopy should only be used for residential purposes i.e not used for conducting business;
  • The carport or canopy should not take up more than 50% of the available outside space.

In all cases, as so much comes down to interpretation, we advise contacting the local authority before commissioning work on bespoke structures such as solar PV canopies & carports.

Planning permission for solar PV systems supplying commercial properties

Permitted Development Rights were applied to solar PV systems installed onto commercial, industrial and agricultural roofspaces in England on the 6th April 2012. The key piece of legistaltion is The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2012. Our understanding of the legislation is that installing a solar PV panel system will now in most cases come under 'Permitted Development' if the installation is as below:

Commercial Flat Roof Solar PV Panel Installation

Commercial Roofspace solar panel installations

  • Pitched roofs: The solar PV array must not protude more than 200mm above the roof line;
  • Flat Roofs: The highest part of the solar PV array must be less than 1m higher than the highest part of the roof (excluding any chimney);
  • The PV array must be sited more than 1m away from the external edges of the roof;
  • As far as practicable the PV array should be sited to minimise the effect on the external appearance of the building.
Ground Mounted Commercial Solar PV Panel Mounting System

Ground mounted installations on commercial, agricultural or industrial land

The installation of commercial ground Mounted solar PV systems only comes under 'permitted development' when:

  • The solar PV array is no more than 4m high;
  • The solar PV array is installed more than 5m from the property boundary;
  • The size of the solar PV array does not exceed 9m sq (4-5 large large panels);
  • The solar PV array does not face onto or be visible from the highway if located within a conservation area or a world heritage site.

As most commercial solar PV system installation are much bigger than 9m sq, planning permission will be required for commercial ground mounted solar PV systems in nearly all cases.

Commercial Solar PV Panel Canopy

Commercial solar PV canopies & carports

Planning permission is required before building carports, canopies, smoking shelters and other PV mounting structures that will serve commercial, industrial and agricultural buildings.

Planning Permission Required - What's Next?

The need to get planning permission before installing a solar PV system should not put anyone off from installing a system. The installation of solar PV technology is generally well understood and welcomed by most local authorities but understandably some protections need to be in place. The recent changes to 'permitted development rights' are proof of the positive approach taken by central government with regards to installing renewables.

In our experience a planning application with a considered and well designed system that takes account the wider environmental impact and minimises any negative effects of an installation is likely to be treated fairly. Most local authorities have their own guidance about installing renewables available on their websites and many have implemented local plans to promote the further uptake of renewables in their areas.

Planning Permission Required - Key factors the planners will consider.

Efficient Land Use - Development of brownfield and previously unused land is encouraged wherever possible. Where greenfield or agricultural land is to be used, dual usage (such as PV + grazing animals) or increasing the biodiversity in and around the installation area is encouraged.

Temporary Structures / Minimal environmental impact - Although solar PV arrays have a long lifespan the planners especially in the case of ground mounted systems will want to see that the installation area could be reinstated with as little environmental impact as possible should the system be decommissioned.

Preserve Views and Heritage Assets - There is a recognised value in the preservation of views and landscapes. The visual impact of a solar PV installation in areas that could be described as containing heritage assets should be minimised. A heritage asset could be a series of buildings, a landscape, a view, an archaelogical site etc. A heritage asset does not need to be a legally protected asset such as a conservation area. A heritage asset could be anything of special interest, of national or local importance or offering some other value that could be adversely affected through the installation of a solar PV system. The cumulative effects of multiple solar PV systems within an area will also be considered.

NB: It is also always sensible to involve local authority planners and particularly AONB and Conservation Area officers involved in planning permission decisions in sensitive areas as early as possible in the planning and system design process.

Building Regulations

Not the same as planning permission but still the responsibility of the local authority is compliance with the Building Regulations. In one way or another solar PV installations will always need to be in compliance with the building regulation (e.g.. the safety of electrical systems and structures). We give examples of where building regulations will likely apply and need to be referred to here: Solar PV Safety and The Building Regulations.

Further Reading, policies and guidance (pdf docs open in a new browser window).

NB: This list is not maintained or updated, current users should ensure that the latest document version is being used by checking to see if a later version is available from the original source.

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Professional Solar PV System Design & Planning

The success of any renewable energy project is always in the quality and robustness of the system design, our experienced in-house design team has been designing innovative and ground breaking solar PV and other renewable energy systems since 2007.

Solar PV System Design
We take a collaborative and open approach and often find the very best systems are those where the system owner/developer has taken an active involvement with the design.

We can help prepare cost effective designs, roof layouts and documentation for all types and size of solar PV project; including drawings, bills of materials and detailed custom installation/owners manuals. We work with installers and developers as well as private clients and businesses, so if you need any technical information prepared then contact us, we have specialist knowledge and experience at your disposal, you will find us easy to work with and happy to help.

Solar PV System Design & Planning

Solar PV Equipment and Installation Kits

If we are supplying systems and equipment to Solar PV installers or for DIY solar installations, we are always happy to include system designs, testing and bespoke documentation as part of the package.

Solar PV Equipment Suppliers
This can include:
  • System Performance Statements
  • Line Drawings and Schematics
  • Roof Layouts
  • Grid Connection Documents
  • Solar Panel Testing and Records

Solar PV Systems & Equipment

 

Articles

Further reading and calculators related to designing, installing, repairing and maintaining solar photovoltaic and electrical systems:

Engineering Recommendation G98

Grid Connections for Micro-Generators including Solar PV Systems and Elecricity Storage Systems in the UK. Under 16Amps Per Phase, grid synchronised.

Types of Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System

Introduction to the different types of Photovoltaic (PV) System available including Grid Tied, Off-Grid, Hybrid and Batteryless solar PV systems.

Solar PV System Components

Overview of the basic components needed to install a complete solar PV system. Introduction to solar PV panels. power inverters, AC & DC isolators and mounting systems.

Free Solar PV Calculators

A list of free solar PV calculators, solar design tools and software, Use to calculate solar yields and the Return on Investment (ROI) for solar PV systems.

Evaluating Solar PV Panels - Which panels to buy?

What to look for when evaluating and selecting solar PV panels for UK installations. Electrical characteristics of solar PV arrays and the safety factors used for selecting BoS equipment, also mounting options.

Solar PV: Smart Export Guarantee

Interesting times ... The Smart Export Guarantee came into affect in January 2020. The Smart Export Guarantee is an obligation set by the government for licensed electricity suppliers to offer a tariff and to pay small-scale low carbon Generators and Micro-generators for any electricity that they export to the National Grid.

Solar Panels - PV Array Calculator

Solar Panels: Solar PV System sizing and power yield calculator. Use to work out roof layouts, PV array sizes, No. of panels and power yields. Based on SAP 2009.

Flat Roof Solar PV Array Spacing / Shade Calculator

The minimum required space between parallel rows to avoid shading is decided by the height of the array immediately in front, the slope of the roof and the lattitude of the installation site. This table illustrates the different row spacings required for optimum positioning in different locations.

Solar Electricity - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to size a system?, What is kWp?, What is the difference between a kilowatt (kW) and a kilowatt hour ( kWh)?, How does a solar PV system work? Can I add more solar panels to my system? How do I know if my solar panels are working?

Preparing for a Solar Panel Installation

As with any construction project the success and efficiency of a solar PV panel installation comes down to good planning. Some advice for potential system owners preparing for a new solar panel installation.

Solar PV, Safety & The Building Regulations

Residential PV systems notifiable under Part P. Special consideration needed for Part A. A combination of serious risks for solar PV installers.

Safely Retrofitting Solar PV Roof Mounts

The things to consider before installing a retrofited solar PV system on a roof and an introduction to the type of equipment used to secure an on-roof solar PV system.

Smart Switching / Solar PV Power Switching

Available as an addition to existing solar PV systems or installed as a package alongside a new system, Smart switching puts full control of a solar PV system's power output firmly in the hands of the system owner.

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) & Electrical Glossary of Terms

An alphabetical list of many of the industry and technical terms you are likely to come across when installing a solar PV system. The glossary also defines terms that are used in roofing and electrical work as well as in solar PV installation and solar manufacturing.

Mains Power Supplies & Earthing Systems

Mains Supply and Earthing Systems: Location & accessability, supply systems, earthing, bonding, labelling, installing RCDs.

Electrical Warning Signs & Labelling

A quick overview of some common electrical warning signs and labels that you might find attached to electrical equipment.

ABB / Power One Aurora Inverter Faults and Repairs

Power One, at one point were the second ranked inverter manufacturer in the world and there are many Power One Aurora Inverters installed in the UK. The most popular models being the Uno PVI-3.0-TL-OUTD and the Uno PVI-3.6-TL-OUTD.

Fronius IG / IG Plus Inverter Faults and Repairs

Fronius IG and IG Plus series inverters have LCD displays on the front of the chassis that providing it's working, will highlight any errors with the inverter or the solar PV system that it runs.

Mastervolt Inverter Faults and Repairs

Mastervolt Sunmaster and the smaller Soladin ranges of inverters were widely installed in the UK between 2011 and 2014. Popular Sunmaster models being the Sunmaster XS2000, Sunmaster XS3200 and the Sunmaster XS4300.

SMA Sunnyboy Inverter Faults and Repairs

SMA Sunnyboy Inverters have been widely installed in the UK, some of the most popular being the SB1200, SB2000 and SB3000. High frequency models include the SB2000HF, SB2500HF, and SB3000HF. Transformerless models include the SB3000TL and the SB3600TL.

SolarEdge Inverter and Optimser Faults and Repairs

The SolarEdge system is unique and in our opinion unrivalled in terms of it's ability to monitor system performance down to panel level. This is achieved through the installation of a small unit called an optimiser.

Sonnen Macht Inverter Faults and Repairs

The problem we often find with these inverters are damaged relays, the tell tale sign of a relay failure is an Error 19: Relay or Error 19: Relay Fault warning displayed on the inverter's display.

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