Development Services, Fire and Rescue to launch pilot for reviewing solar permit applications

News Article
2 men on roof installing solar panels
This three-month effort seeks to streamline evaluations of residential solar panel installations requiring engineering reviews.

Beginning Friday, March 24, the Bureau of Development Services and Portland Fire and Rescue are pursuing potential efficiencies in the review of residential solar permit applications.

This project intends to explore whether plans for residential solar panel arrays can be reviewed more efficiently while meeting the requirements of state building codes. These codes require that solar panel arrays, and the roofs on which they are installed, can withstand the impacts of high winds, heavy snow and other factors that put a strain on a building’s structure.

During this trial period, plans for solar panel installations on residential buildings that require either an engineering or prescriptive review will be reviewed by Fire and Rescue staff, who will examine applications for their adherence to life safety and zoning rules.

Fire and Rescue staff will provide limited structural review to ensure that plans meet the design criteria in state building codes. A stamp from an engineer attesting that plans for engineered projects meet building code requirements will be sufficient. No further engineering review will be provided.

The Bureau of Development Services will continue to review solar panel installations on commercial buildings, including apartment buildings, and those with ballasted systems.

Solar permit applications will continue to be filed through Development Hub PDX and reviewed by Development Services permit technicians to ensure they meet the minimum requirements for submittal. Following the installation of a solar panel array, Development Services staff will inspect it for its conformance with approved plans.

The pilot is a result of collaborative discussions among engineers from the private sector and the City who participate in solar permit applications and reviews. This project is scheduled to run through June 30. Afterward, City staff will review whether it results in more timely issuance of solar permits, changes in numbers of revisions needed to submitted plans, and whether there are sufficient staffing resources to sustain this effort.