Guide to Expediting Solar Permits With NYC Professional Certification


As of last week, New York City provides another tool for expediting solar permits and reducing solar installation costs. New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) announced on December 3, 2015, it will expand the type of solar permits eligible for Professional Certification in order to eliminate permit wait times. At Burnham, we manage the solar permit process on behalf of our clients and participate in the organization that advocated for this change. In this post, we will explain why Professional Certification expedites solar permits and how to use the certification.

Professional Certification Saves Time by Skipping Plan Review

The Professional Certification Program is not new. It was created in 1995 to eliminate delays during a time of growth in New York City construction projects. According to DOB policy, new or modified building projects may skip DOB plan review if a Registered Architect or Professional Engineer certifies that the project plans comply with all legal requirements, including the Zoning Resolution and Building Code. Significant time is saved by eliminating the need for DOB to examine plans before work may begin.  

Professional Certification Extends to Solar Installations With Property Tax Abatements

Until now, Professional Certification, also called Self-Certification, was only available for solar installations not seeking a property tax abatement (PTA), a New York City program granting a tax reduction for properties installing photovoltaic panels. However, the vast majority of the city’s residential rooftop solar installations apply for a PTA. This meant that most New York City solar installations could not use Professional Certification and experienced four to six week delays going through plan review due to the large application backlog.  

Burnham, through Sustainable City University of New York and the NYC Installer’s Roundtable, advocated for the Professional Certification’s use with residential rooftop solar installations seeking a PTA. With the DOB change, Professional Certification may be used with solar permits applying for a PTA as of January 1, 2016. Any applications currently pending approval may be withdrawn and refiled using the Professional Certification process.

A residential rooftop photovoltaic system will be eligible for Professional Certification under the new program if it is:

  1. Up to 10 kilowatts;
  2. On a one or two family home; and
  3. On a pitched roof with a twenty or greater degree slope.

In our experience, almost all residential rooftop solar installations fall within these parameters.

Submit the Professional Certification Form and Other Documentation When Pre-Filing

An applicant must choose to use Professional Certification at the time of filing for the DOB construction and electrical permits. To use Professional Certification, all drawings and three original copies of the signed certification form are required when pre-filing. The professional must sign and date the certification form and include their Professional License Number and Professional’s Seal. Also, the property owner must sign a sworn statement.

New York City solar installers have the option of applying for permits online with the NYC Development HUB’s (HUB) electronic filing system or in person through a DOB borough office. However, applications seeking a PTA must be filed online, and therefore, any applications using Professional Certification and applying for a PTA will be filed electronically. These Professional Certification applications filed through HUB’s online system will be approved the same day. This is a dramatic decrease from the four to six weeks we experienced without the availability of Professional Certification.

It is important to be aware that DOB will audit twenty percent of the permit applications using Professional Certification. If problems are found during the audit, work on the project will stop until the identified problems are resolved or the permit is revoked. DOB may also exclude from the Professional Certification Program any professional who files defective self-certified plans.  

Use of Professional Certification Supports New York’s Goal to Increase Solar

ew York City has a variety of groundbreaking initiatives to encourage the expansion of solar adoption. See our recent post describing New York City programs to increase solar installations and streamline the solar approval process. The availability of Professional Certification to expedite solar permits is another important step to help stimulate solar development in New York City. We at Burnham have begun processing solar permit applications using the newly expanded Professional Certification process, and it has been a huge game changer for our clients.

* This post was updated with new information on January 11, 2016

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