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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Broward County > Go Green > GoSOLAR > Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What is the Rooftop Solar Challenge?
A. The Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Rooftop Solar Challenge to accelerate significant improvements in market conditions for solar photovoltaic projects. This is a grant-funded program that makes it easier for Broward County residents and businesses to convert to solar energy. The Challenge will allow us to:
Engage local and state governments
Work with solar installers and contractors
Work with non-governmental organizations
Make solar energy simpler, faster, and more affordable

Q. What cities are participating in the Solar Rooftop Challenge?
A. The following cities are participating within Broward County to form our team:  Coconut Creek; Dania Beach; Davie; Deerfield Beach; Fort Lauderdale; Hallandale; Hillsboro Beach; Lauderdale-by-the-Sea; Miramar; North Lauderdale; Oakland Park; Pompano Beach; Sunrise; Tamarac; and Unincorporated Broward County. Other cities are welcome to join us at meeting and events to learn about the implementation of streamlined/ electronic permitting.

Q. How do I join the Broward Rooftop Solar Challenge Team?
A. The Broward Rooftop Solar Challenge has formed five committees that you can join at any time. To join, email sunshot@broward.org.  For more information, call 954.519.1260.
Standardized Permitting
Financing
Intergovernmental
Planning and Zoning
Outreach

Q. Are there any Financing Options? 
A. The members of the Broward Rooftop Solar Challenge Team will investigate potential financing options for the installation of rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems in residential and small commercial structures, identify the benefits and challenges of each option, recommend the most feasible alternatives for Broward County, and advocate for legislative action, if necessary.  Information will posted on-line as it becomes available. 

Q. What are FPL Interconnection Standards? 
A. Florida Power and Light (FPL) Interconnection Standards are when the customer interconnects its customer-owned renewable generation to FPL’s electrical service grid at the Customer’s presently metered location. The Solar Rooftop Challenge will advocate expansion of Florida's net metering standards to all utility companies (i.e., municipal utilities and co-ops) and investigate the feasibility of removing restrictive interconnection requirements across the State.

Q. How can I stay up to date with the Solar Rooftop Challenge?
A. Follow us on Facebook, You Tube and Twitter @ Broward Environment. 
All of the Broward Rooftop Solar Challenge Information is posted on-line at www.broward.org/gogreen/sunshot.

Q. What type of rooftop solar energy systems are covered under the DOE grant?
A. Residential and small commercial buildings. According to the DOE a residential rooftop solar PV system is less than approximately 10kW and a small commercial system is less than approximately 300kW.

Q & A from February 3, 2012 Broward Go SOLAR Webinar

Q: Can cities outside of Broward participate in the permitting process?
A: Eventually. We want to emphasize that the whole idea behind this solution is replicability and the ease in which others can use it. If other cities outside of Broward are interested in joining we encourage them to participate in the process now. A successful Phase 1 Sunshot implementation (which focuses on implementing the permitting process for Broward and participating partner cities) may lead to a Phase 2 rollout of the permitting solution that will include other counties. If you are interested in attending meetings, you can email your contact information to sunshot@broward.org and you will be put on the distribution list.

Q: Are the contractors going to be required to register before applying for a permit? If not, who will verify their license, insurances, etc.?  Also, what is going to be the procedure for the contractors to register?  State Statute requires them to show proof of licenses, insurance, worker comp. etc. I don’t see a way of registering on line without having to show that proof when you are not providing the ability to submit any scanned documents on line.
A: Currently, the plan is for applicants to register in the system and complete an electronic form with the required information. Information provided during registration (license, insurance, etc.) will be reviewed by Broward staff. Once approved, a password will be provided to the applicant that will allow them access and use of the system.

Q: What about other fees required to be paid, such as the surcharges fee that goes to the State? When are those fees added to the permit fee to be paid?
A: The intent was a $500 flat fee; however this issue will be revisited with the building officials at a future stakeholder meeting. 

Q: Is the applicant going to be required to upload a location plan of the specific site?
A: No, there will be no documents uploaded during the application process.

Q: Is there an area of the website where the systems can be viewed without being in the application screens?
A: Yes. On the welcome page under the help they will be able to see all of the systems that are available.

Q: There are six types of inspections. Can the contractor ask for more than one inspection at a time? And, part of the early discussion of streamlining the permitting and inspection process was that one inspector could perform more than one aspect of the inspection per visit.  The system does not seem to allow for a multipurpose inspection.
A: We are reconfiguring the system to allow multiple inspections to be requested. 

Q: How does the plan review process work? How will Planning & Zoning approval be obtained?
A: The concept is that all of the design plans that will be available in the system will be preapproved. In other words, the plan review will have already been completed before the applicant ever applies for the permit – there will be no need to review an applicant’s plans a second time.

Q: A report on the total kilowatts installed to date or a kW counter on the site would be an interesting outreach feature and would help support performance measures for the site.
A: All of the information that is going into the system can be pulled out later so we are able to run reports and run queries. However, such a report is not part of the initial scope of the project.

Q: How will each of the cities receive permit payment?  Electronically or by check?
A: Check.

Q: Can the notification emails to the city be sent to various email addresses?
A: Recommendation is to set up an email distribution group in your email box and put in the name of the distribution group and not the name of the individual – in this fashion, cities can easily control who receives emails.

Q: Will we be able to assign more than one agency representative email at a time?
A: Yes. You will be able to have multiple people who have permission to change the agency information about the city, but there will be one email address for each of those automated emails. 

Q: How will re-inspection fees be handled?
A: The current system does not incorporate re-inspection fees. The flat fee of $500 is intended to cover all re-inspection fees. 

Q: As new solar panel technologies come along, does the system allow for expansion of the potential new designs?
A: Yes. The administrator will be able to upload new designs and templates for the PV systems, electrical panels, and for the roofs. 

Q: Suggest moving the Not Required button for the NOC as all PV systems will require an NOC.
A:  The button will be removed.

Q:  It was mentioned in the webinar that for now the ability to apply for permit on line will be available only for contractors, yet there is legislature being approved in Tallahassee that will allow homeowners also to apply on line for PV system. What is the purpose of allowing a homeowner to obtain a permit for a PV system when in the end, the work has to be done by a licensed contractor.
A: Broward is seeking to remove any impediments to full implementation of electronic permitting, including the homeowner exemption “personally appear” requirement.

Q & A from February 7, 2012 Request For Information (RFI) Teleconference

Q: J-bolt requirement.  Is Broward not going to allow conventional bolt mounting?
A:The consensus among some design engineers in the industry is that when you introduce a lag bolt into a 1 5/8 top chord, you may reduce the structural integrity of that top chord. As an alternate design, some professional engineers have suggested a j-bolt that would go through the top ½ inch or 5/8 inch portion of the plywood directly to the attachment of the cord. However, any mounting attachment system meeting all applicable codes designed, signed and sealed by a State of Florida registered structural engineer is acceptable.

Q:Once the person chooses a racking company on the website, would the manufacturer ever have communication with the client as to what the manufacture would be providing?
A:Yes. Having selected a system preapproved by the local authority having jurisdiction and received a permit through the SunShot solution, the applicant will be required to obtain and use that manufacturer’s mounting solution to have a legally permitted solar energy system.

Q: The template seems to be oriented towards the racking system and not the attachment to the roof? Describe how a company that designs mounts might deal with this challenge.
A: The racking system and the attachment of that racking system to the roof structure would have to be designed to meet all applicable codes, including required high velocity wind zone criteria for Broward County. If there is a design that would be a one-size-fits-all racking system that would be great, and under this RFI, Broward would welcome suggestions on such a solution. However, the intent of the RFI was to ask racking manufactures to design an attachment of their systems to the most common roof types here in South Florida, which will be used to produce preapproved designed plans for permitting. The design drawings would need to include design criteria, i.e., structural roof type, roof pitch, panel angle and mounting distance from edge of roof, etc.

Go SOLAR Online Permitting System Frequently Asked Questions & Comments

Partner Agency FAQ’s

Q: How is the permit system issue permit number going to interface with the city permit record?
 
A: The online permitting system does not integrate as of right now.  Possibly in phase 2 of the grant  there may be some integration of systems.

Q: What is the renewal fee for expired permits?
 
A: We need input from building officials about fee consensus; discussion pending.

Q: Is interconnection completed prior or after the final inspection?
 
A: Interconnection is allowed only after final inspection.

Q: Can the city modify the note (page 15 of the partner agency manual) stating that the contractor call the city for an appointment?
 
A: Not today but possible for Phase 2. System can be modified quickly if needed.

Q: To properly expire a permit, Chapter 1 of the FBC and Broward County administration provisions require notification to owner and contractor, how is this handled in the permit system?
 
A: Right now notification is electronic.  BC has left enforcement of expiration up to each city/municipality. In Phase 2 we can modify as needed.

Q: What happens to pre-approvals after a new code cycle of the FBC and ASCE?

A: BC templates are dynamic. We can modify the designs accordingly as new code changes occur.

Q: Do pre-approved systems expire?

A: Only if code changes occur otherwise they will not expire.

Q: Will there be the ability to schedule multiple inspections in one day or on the same day?

A: Yes all inspections can be requested at one time or in one instance, except for the final inspection.

Q: If a permit expires, does the applicant re-apply or can the permit be renewed and is there a cost for either process?

A: Each city has the option to do choose what they want to do with the permit. Applicants can re-apply or obtain an extension. The system does not have a built in fee for renewing expired permits at this time. We can obtain more input per meeting and consensus with building officials.

Q: Do we need to contact contractors to register in our city?

A: Pending discussion with building officials will determine the answer. Each city operates differently when it comes to contractor licensure verification.

Q: How are plans printed for the job site?
 
A: That is the responsibility of the contractor. BC provides a .pdf of the electronic file. The contractor will have to print that and provide it to the inspector.

Q: How do inspectors know that what a contractor prints is what inspectors looked at previously?

A: Inspectors can look it up in the permitting system. It should be relatively easily since it is a standard design. 

Q: Can we print emails as inspection ticket?

A: Answer pending per meeting with Building Officials.

Q: How does the inspector see the denial comments from previous inspections?

A: You will have to logon to the system to view the comments.

Q: Is there an inspection time cut off?

A: Currently there is no time cut off built into the permitting system. Answer pending discussion.

Q: As an inspector, I can go to your website and look at the plans?

A: Yes, you can look at all plans in the system. All plans are in .pdf format.

Q: Is there a note that the contractor needs to print the .pdf and take to site for inspection so the city doesn’t have to do it?

A: We will add that note to the permitting system.
Suggestion from audience: Print email as an inspection ticket; somewhere there should be a denial  comment so inspector can look quickly.

Q: Is there a watermark stating these are approved plans?
 
A: We will designate on the plans that they are the approved plans.

Q: When does this process start?

A: Target is mid-November.

Q: The plans are generic, is there something in the system that indicates zoning requirements (e.g. don’t put the system in the front on the house)?

A: BC can add that criteria to the permitting system. We have to all agree on what goes on each page in the plans and in the system. Currently there is a model ordinance (which has been adopted) with language covering all zoning ordinances. All cities participated and provided input in this zoning ordinance. The permit system design plans are not currently customized but the structural plans in the permitting system covers zoning concerns. The Go SOLAR Planning and Zoning Committee shared the draft plans and all zoning criteria for each city have been met. 

Q: What about truces and weight?

A: We are not concerned with weight but uplift of the PV system and attachment to the roof.  The current system design plans stipulate wind loads. 
Suggestion from audience: We would like a letter from an engineer stating truces are supported.

Q: Why is the application permit fee so low?

A: Because we are trying to get renewable energy projects in south Florida.

Q: If damage occurs after solar panel installation, does homeowner insurance cover the damage?

A: It depends on each individual insurance company. The owner will have to contact their own insurance company.

Q: Is there going to be training for inspectors about solar panel technology?

A: The DOE developed an online training for building officials, inspectors, and solar contractors.  Broward County will release the DOE online system training for use as soon.

Q: Is it possible to not allow contractors with expired licenses to complete the application process?

A: Broward County will perform manual verification using its current verification procedures prior to issuing a contractor user id/password for the Go SOLAR permitting system. Current verification procedures include checking Broward County's existing database of approved licensees. If not in the database, the contractor will have to submit their proof of workers compensation, contractor's license, and driver's license for review before being entered into the Broward County database as an approved contractor. In the latter case, the contractor will be required to pay the standard Broward County $25 fee for checking contractor status.

Q: Can funds be sent to cities by wire transfer rather than check to expedite the refund process?

A: The possibility of direct deposit or wire transfers is being considered for this program. At this time it is not completely in place. We will notify when this option is available.

Q: Why are not all Broward County municipalities joining the Go SOLAR Program?

A: The program is voluntary. It is up to each city/municipality to join. Broward County has made and continues to make efforts to enlist each county city and/or municipality to join the program. 

Q: Are we asking the cities/municipalities for priority or fast track inspections?

A: At this time no. DOE measures our success based on how quickly we issue a permit and install a PV system. This option can be considered in Phase 2 of the program.
 
Applicant FAQ’s

Q: What about when you have to go underground during an installation (for example for esthetic reasons)?

A: We will have to cover those issues as they arise. For right now applicants will have to go through the normal route of permitting.

Q: Can the need to go underground during installation be covered in the “partial rough inspection?”

A: Yes, the need to go underground during installation can be covered in the partial rough inspection.

Q: If two rough inspections are required will a partial approval close out the inspection not allowing the rough to be called in again?

A: Each of the 2 rough inspections are independent of each other. They must be either approved or disapproved independently.

Q: I don’t see anywhere where an owner of the property signs any document. Where does the owner sign? In the normal process an owner signs a paper application. This is important in order to certify that the owner is requesting an installation.

A: Depends on the requirements of the city/municipality where the PV system will be installed. Currently the Go SOLAR Online Permitting system does not require an owner’s signature.

Q: What causes a permit to expire besides the system expiration date?

A: According to the Chapter 1, Section 105.11.2 of the Florida Building Code – Time Limitation:  Every permit issued shall become null and void if work, as defined in Paragraph 105.11.2.6 authorized by such permit is not commenced within 180 days from the date of the permit or if the work authorized by such permit is suspended or abandoned for a period of 90 days after the time the work is commenced.

Q: Different municipalities have different inspection cut-off times and not everybody checks their email right away. How is this handled for inspections?

A: An applicant can still call their respective city/municipality to confirm the inspection time and date or can follow any procedure currently in place for obtaining a permit and conducting a permit inspection. 

Q: Do the cities get the permit fees?

A: Yes.

Q: How do I see any or all permit information since it is stated in the manual that all information t is a matter of public record?

A: Anyone can go to the website and view the information publicly. You don’t have to register in the system in order to view the information.
 
Q: Every year, contractor insurance has to be updated/maintained, how do you keep up with this information?

A: Broward County has an internal database that verifies this information.

Q: Can I upload my own designs into the permitting system?

A: Yes. While you are unable to personally upload your design, you may have your design plans added to the menu of available options for all users of the system. You may simply complete and submit an Advantage Marketing Agreement (http://www.broward.org/Purchasing/Solicitations/Go%20Solar.pdf), along with a digitally signed and sealed Adobe (.pdf) document of your proposed design plans, in accordance with the Agreement. If approved by all the required entities, your design plans will be uploaded into the system and you will be notified they are available for use.

Q: How can I view sample drawings?

A: We can email you sample drawings.

Permitting System/Training Comments

  • The information provided was very valuable. Thank you for streamlining the process.
  • Great job! Great effort!
  • Thanks for spending the time and energy to put the training together.
  • The training was very informational and great system!

Suggestions/Recommendations

  • Would like to see 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10 kW systems included in the permitting system.
  • Recommend you streamline a hot water system application process.
  • Underground installations should be classified under a “rough inspection.”
  • Provide drawings for contractors to verify/review before going through the entire application process.
  • Have different design types so contractors can use them. Need flexibility.
  • Would like “hands-on” online practice of the permitting system. 
  • Would like training for interfacing with IT and finance departments.
  • Would like another training session.