What to Know About Legal Alternative Energy Installation

man installing solar panels in the sun

Alternative energy is a hot topic in the world and it’s probably something you’re interested in learning about for your own home. While there are so many ins and outs to be aware of surrounding this topic, it’s important to understand some of the legal rules around alternative energy installation as well.

Legalities to Consider

There are a number of legalities to consider surrounding the installment of alternative energy sources on any home. These include building codes and permit requirements, easements, local covenants and ordinances, and technology-specific requirements.

Local Codes and Requirements

Adding a renewable energy system to your home is not as straightforward as you may think. This is in part because different cities and states have different codes and regulations that you’ll need to follow to do so. So you may be wondering how you should go about determining these rules and regulations in the state and city that you live in. The easiest way to find this information is to contact your state energy office as well as your local officials. This way, you’ll be clued into the best type of system to use in order to comply with these laws.

Another important reason to connect with state and local officials is so that they can help you navigate your power provider’s grid-connection requirements as you start your journey of installing alternative energy sources.

regulations and rules printed next to pencils, glasses, and coffee


One legality to be aware of in relation to the installation of a renewable energy source is an easement. These are not permitted in all states but are in some. Easements are a voluntary, legally binding agreement between owners of adjacent land regarding the way the land is used. Specifically regarding alternative energy installation, easements can be used to specify that no structure will be built that will extend past certain dimensions.

An interesting point about easements is that they are legally binding even if the property changes hands. For that reason, before beginning the process of installing renewable energy, conduct a deed title search to determine if any easements were previously filed with your property to ensure that you will not be violating one during installation.

Local Ordinances

Your community may have local ordinances dictating what you can or cannot do on your property, which may affect your ability to install renewable energy sources. For instance, there could be ordinances that surround the aesthetics of your property that would prohibit or even noise ordinances that do so. Even if these ordinances exist in your locality, though, you should check whether there are any provisions that support renewable energy systems, as this is common.

man installing solar panels

Building Codes and Permits

Building codes in your state may dictate the need for certain inspections and permits to be obtained in order to legally install alternative energy sources. Electrical and building inspectors can help ensure that your system is safe and that it complies with all necessary standards. In many areas, your system would be required to pass electrical and plumbing inspections to comply with building codes and be operational.

Another concern surrounding building codes is getting permission from your state or city’s zoning board. This municipality will grant permits for your installation. In order to gain a permit and the stamp of approval of a building inspector, your best bet is to following the National Electrical Code (NEC) during installation, using pre-engineered, packaged systems, and have a complete set of plans and diagrams of the system on hand for the inspection and to present to zoning. Of course, your system should also be made up of only certified equipment.

While installing alternative energy systems onto your home does take cutting through an abundance of red tape, the process is well worth the effort. Investing not only the money but the time and energy into these energy sources does something great for the planet and can help you save money in the long-run, which is undoubtedly a win-win scenario.