Photovoltaic (PV) project checklist

This page gives information about whether you need planning permission for a photovoltaics (PV) project and a project checklist of all of the practical considerations.

Planning and regulatory requirements

Most domestic, roof mounted systems are now permitted development as long as they don't protrude more than 200mm beyond the plane of the wall or the roof slope.

Domestic stand-alone systems are permitted unless they are:

  • more than 4 metres in height
  • installed less than 5 metres away from any boundary
  • above 9m 2
  • situated on a wall within any part of the curtilage of the dwelling house and would be visible from a highway in Conservations Areas and World Heritage Sites.

Systems that do not fit these criteria should apply for planning permission. You should also speak to building control and they will advise whether the system will be safe and any action that might be needed.

Non-domestic systems will need to apply for planning permission. PV developments with a capacity of more than 0.5MW need a ‘screening opinion' to assess whether or not an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required. A formal request for a screening opinion should be submitted as part of discussions with the planning authority. Again, you will also need to inform building control.

Any system

Space requirements1kWp requires between 6m 2 and 9m 2
OrientationModules able to face with 45° of south for maximum efficiency
PitchOptimum pitch of modules between 30° and 40°
OvershadingNo overshading of any part of a module
InverterNeeded to convert DC into AC power for use in appliances or that can be accepted by the National Grid.
Lifetimes are typically 20 years through the warrantee will be more like seven years.
Available in a range of sizes from 100 to 10,000 Watt.
Systems can be designed without an inverter, but all appliances and lights must run off DC power.
Inverters are relatively large units so they often get located in loft space in domestic systems. However, overheating must be avoided.
Grid connection or battery storage for excess electricity

Must be grid connected to be eligible for the feed-in tariff.
You will need to choose an energy supplier to sell electricity to.
Permission in advance from the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) will be required for systems above 16 Amps output (around 4kWp).
Batteries very useful if not grid connected but can be large and heavy.

System sizeDetermined mainly by cost and space but also electricity demand.
Larger systems will need to consider the ability to connect to the grid and obtain permission for DNO.
Impact on development phasingCan later phases be used for temporary electricity generation?
Mounting structureChoice of structure will vary according to factors, including: whether the system is ground or roof mounted; the type of ground conditions and the permanence of the system.
Feed-in tariffTo qualify for feed-in tariffs you must use installers and equipment accredited under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme.
InstallationCheck if the installer belongs to a professional body that promotes high standards.
ProcurementGet more than one quote.

Building integrated systems

Roof strength

Existing roof with sufficient strength to support the modules - weight varies but is likely to be around 13 kg per m 2, plus mounting structure.

Existing buildings where a new roof is planned can be designed to accommodate PV.

Ownership of or rights to use the roofDo you have these?
Do these rights extend for at least 25 years? (25 years is the incentive period for the feed-in tariff and the usual power output warranty of modules, although modules will last much longer with reduction output)

Stand-alone systems

Ownership or rights to use the spaceDo you have these?
Do these rights extend for at least 25 years? (25 years is the incentive period for the feed-in tariff and the usual power output warranty of modules, although modules will last much longer with reduction output)
Connecting to the grid may require granting of wayleaves.
Grid connectionAvailability of a 11kV electricity grid connection for larger schemes
SecurityOpen space needs to be secured to prevent vandalism or theft.
Land preparation and usesModules set on ground mounted frames.
Modules can easily be removed and land returned to previous use.
It is possible to use land under or around the modules for other uses, for example, grazing of smaller livestock, car parking or wildlife habitat.
Setting modules at one metre above the ground will reduce shading of plants beneath.

7 February 2011

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