Going solar is an exciting decision, and many of our clients want to see their projects come to fruition as quickly as possible.
In the grand scheme of things, solar installations don’t really take that long at all, but there is a specific process and timeline to follow that has the potential to face delays along the way.
The great news is that from the first time you speak to your solar developer to when you switch on your new solar system for the first time, the maximum is likely to be about six months – often a lot less.
To understand more about a solar installation and the length of time involved, we’ve broken it down into steps so you can see exactly what goes into the process.
In a Nutshell
- The average timeline for a solar installation is two to six months.
- The longest part of the process is obtaining the permit, which can take up to ten weeks.
- The actual installation of the equipment is the fastest part of the process and is often finished in a matter of days.
How Long Does a Solar Installation Take From Start to Finish?
A solar installation goes much further beyond fixing the solar panels into their chosen spot. There’s a lot of paperwork to get through and equipment to order, and you must make sure that all the “i’s” are dotted and all the “t’s” are crossed before your solar panels can finally go into operation.
Much of the solar installation timeline depends on the complexity of the project and how fast the paperwork can be dealt with. But, one can reasonably expect the entire process to last between two to six months.
Of course, we can’t account for other solar developers, but if you choose 8760 Solar as your developer, you’ll be pleased to hear our process generally takes less than five months.
Here’s a quick overview of the steps involved with an 8760 Solar installation:
- 1-2 days: Confirm viable meter numbers and location for the array.
- 1 day: Contract signing and deposit payment.
- *Pause here for USDA eligible projects until approved. Grant application assistance is also provided at this stage.
- 60 days: Equipment is ordered with a 60-day lead time for arrival.
- 15-30 days: Installation is scheduled. If waiting for grant approval, we wait for confirmation of approval before scheduling.
- 7-30 days: Installation is complete (2-3 days per array) plus around 30 days for inspection and activation.
*Grants take 90 days to be written, processed, and approved.
How Long Does Solar Panel Installation Take: Full Timeline
Let’s break things down and take a look at the timeline in detail. It’s quite an involved process, so being aware of it and what’s involved at each step will help prepare you for when it happens.
Researching and Picking a Solar Installer
First things first, you need to research and pick a reputable solar installer.
Of course, we’ll always recommend ourselves – 8760 Solar – but the truth is that we might not fit your requirements since we specialize in providing solar for farms and agricultural businesses.
The important thing is to find an installer that has great reviews, is well-established and NABCEP certified, and is a specialist in the type of solar installation for your needs.
Time: We always recommend talking to a few solar developers to find the right fit. Therefore, this process can take a matter of days or a couple of weeks, depending on how well your search goes.
Premises and Site Analysis
Once you’ve found the right solar developer, the next step is to perform a full analysis of your premises.
At 8760 Solar, we’ll obtain a copy of your power bills and use the information in accordance with your utility provider’s allowances to determine what size system you need. Then, we’ll uncover which meter/s will give you the best return on your investment.
We’ll also assess suitable areas where the solar panels can be installed and identify potential issues, such as shade and obstacles. Thanks to the wonders of technology, the majority of this can be done virtually using Google Maps & solar specific software tools.
If your panels are to be mounted onto a roof, its condition will be assessed, including whether or not it can take the weight of the panels and if any structural improvements need to be made.
After all that’s done, we’ll present you with our findings. We’ll also show you three different pricing options and include them with and without the USDA REAP grant deductions.
Time: The assessment itself takes less than a day, but depending on the solar developer’s availability, this could take about one week to schedule and take place.
Solar System Engineering and Design
This is an exciting and major part of the timeline! It’s where your solar project starts to be visualized.
Your solar developer will design your system according to your unique requirements (remember – every setup is bespoke). They factor in your electricity consumption rates, any municipality and utility requirements, as well as any local building codes that must be adhered to.
The layout will be designed according to where the panels are to be placed, and any required upgrades or changes to your electrical system or the installation site will also be included.
Time: Expect this process to take between two to four weeks. If it’s a particularly large or complex installation, this could take longer.
Signing the Contract
You’re probably thinking it doesn’t take more than a moment to sign a piece of paper, but signing a contract is more than just adding your signature to a page of text.
Your solar developer needs to prepare the contract and then present it to you. In most cases, they will take you through the proposal and explain everything.
Then, it’s your job to go through it with a fine tooth comb to ensure that everything is in order before you sign. If any adjustments to the contract need to be made, this will extend the time before it is finally signed.
Time: Allow about one week for the contract to be signed and completed.
Unfortunately, this part of the process is likely to take the longest – and lead to the most frustration – largely because it is out of your and your solar developer’s hands.
Where Colorado is concerned, each county or city municipality has its own permitting process. For example, Denver has an over-the-counter application process that only takes an hour. On the other hand, smaller counties like Wellington and Windsor utilize a third-party permit provider which can take over a whopping 10 weeks!
Time: Depending on where your solar system is to be installed, allow between four and ten weeks for your permit application to go through. Unless you’re in Denver, in which case you’ll have it within the hour!
Ordering the Solar Panels and Equipment
Once you have your permit safely in your hands, it’s time for your solar developer to go ahead and order all the necessary equipment. This includes:
- Solar panels
- Ground mounts
- Cables and wiring
- Batteries (if requested)
- And more
Your solar developer will likely use a number of different suppliers to order each item or component, so again, the length of time this takes is out of hand.
You also have to take into account the potential for material shortages or delays, and whether or not the equipment is being ordered from within the US or from overseas.
Time: Factor in about 8 weeks for the equipment to be ordered and to arrive.
Solar System Installation
Now comes the best part – it’s time for your solar system to be installed!
This is where the team comes and puts everything in place and fixes it all together. You’ll probably be surprised to hear that this is actually one of the quickest steps out of the entire process.
Some things can hamper the speed of the installation, like bad weather. If it’s blowing a hurricane or you’re in the middle of a snowstorm, the work may have to be delayed. If your solar system includes a ground mount, then working around the seasonal winter months where the ground freezes can also affect the length of time it takes to complete.
Ultimately, how long the installation takes is determined by the scale and complexity of the project, but overall, they rarely take more than a few days.
As a typical example, 8760 Solar’s installation time for a 25kW ground-mounted array takes three to four days in total:
- We need one to two days to complete the groundwork (digging trenches, laying the conduit, and fixing the pillion);
- One day to construct and affix the racking, rails, and solar panels;
- One day to lay and connect all electrical wiring.
Time: Allow up to four days for the installation unless your solar developer indicates that it will be completed faster.
By this stage, you’ll be itching to switch your solar panels on, but there are still a couple more things left to do.
Before your panels can become operational, a local inspector needs to arrive on-site and carry out a final inspection. To issue the seal of approval, the inspector must ensure that your solar system conforms to safety regulations and the relevant building codes.
The main hurdle here is scheduling and the inspector may not be available immediately. However, once your inspection date is in the diary, the actual event takes no longer than a couple of hours.
Time: Allow one to two weeks for the inspection to be scheduled and take place.
Permission to Operate and Utility Activation
You’re almost there! The final step, called “permission to operate” (PTO), is where you gain permission from your utility company to go into operation and start sending your excess energy to the grid.
Note that for entirely off-grid systems, this step will not be necessary.
For on-grid systems, however, your utility company will need to come onto your premises and install a new meter that is compatible with tracking and transferring solar energy. They are also likely to perform a quick inspection.
When this is all done and dusted, your interconnection agreement will receive the green light and you can finally flip the switch on your solar system.
Unfortunately, utility companies aren’t always in the greatest of hurries to get this done for you, so you may have to wait several weeks to get the go-ahead.
Particularly where Xcel is concerned, customers have had significant problems getting their meters installed, with some reporting that it took Xcel six months to get it sorted. The number of complaints for this issue got so great that the PUC event eventually handed a $1 million fine to Xcel for its poor service.
Time: Allow two to six weeks on average to get your interconnection agreement approved.
Time to Start the Process?
All-in-all, a solar project won’t be built in a day, but you will be enjoying the benefits of solar energy within the space of a few months.
At 8760 Solar, we’ve got a long and established history of providing solar energy to farms, agricultural, and rural businesses, and if that sounds like you, then we’d love to work with you.
We diligently follow all steps of the installation timeline and offer support and assistance with obtaining permits and passing inspections.
We’re looking forward to hearing from you. Text “READY” to 719 470-0254 or contact us via email: email@example.com.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does Solar Installation Take?
On average, a solar installation can be as fast as two months or take up to six months to complete. The longest parts of the process are obtaining your solar permit and scheduling and waiting for the final inspection and permission to operate.
How Long Does It Take From Installation of Solar Panels to Get Free Energy?
A solar installation can take up to six months to complete, but can also be ready in as little as two months. After receiving your permission to operate from your utility company, you can switch your solar system on and start enjoying free energy.
How Long Does Solar Installation Permit Take to Approve (City)?
Depending on where you live, obtaining a solar installation permit can be a lengthy process. Some cities and counties have adopted an “over-the-counter” application where you can receive a permit within the hour. Other counties can take several weeks and – in some cases – longer than ten weeks to obtain.
How Long Does It Take for Solar Panels to Start Working?
Solar panels start working and harvesting energy the moment you switch them, assuming you switch them on during daylight hours.
Why Does It Take So Long to Install Solar?
The solar installation process takes a long time because of the permits that must be obtained and the inspections that must take place. Often, these aspects of the process can take several weeks, considerably lengthening the timeline.