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Step-by-Step Process

Step 1: Preparation

Find zoning information for the property on the city’s assessor site. You will need that information to determine what will be needed for the building permit.
  • City of Madison Assessor's Property Lookup
  • Property Class: classification of building; commercial or residential
  • Zoning:
    • CC, CC-T, SR-V1, TR-C1.... - commercial or residential category
    • PD – Planned Development
    • HIS – Historic District
    • UDC – Urban Design Commission
  • In case of commercial building, find out the volume in ft³ (larger or smaller than 50,000 ft³
  • In case of residential building, determine if it has more than two family dwelling units.
  • In case of PD, HIS or UDC you will need to provide additional documents (see step 3) and it might require more time. Please consider that in your construction schedule.

Step 2: Produce documents for electrical,
plumbing, and heating permits

Electrical, plumbing, and heating permits require the typical documentation to prove that all codes and requirements are met. This should not be a problem for a contractor who is in the business of installing solar systems. Documents needed include but are not limited to:

  • Plumbing (for domestic hot water): A catalog cut sheet of the device. Proof that the transfer fluid is either non-toxic or the device has a double walled heat exchanger.
  • Electrical: A catalog cut sheet of the electrical photovoltaic device that shows it is UL listed.
  • Heating: Information that shows compliance with MGO 30.05. All materials that are used in the system must be listed.
  • Proof that applicant holds all necessary licenses.

Step 3: Produce documents for building permit

You will need to pay applicable fees to obtain all the permits.  Staff can tell you the exact amount for your specific project at time of application.

To learn about City of Madison Fee schedule

Structural Requirements: show with drawings and calculations that the proposed system will be safe at all conditions required by the building code

  • Show at least a section of the existing roof showing the attachment and the existing structure.
  • Show a catalog cut sheet of the solar device with the weight.
  • Different requirements for commercial and residential installations
    • Calculations can be performed by a knowledgeable person if the building is in the residential category or a commercial building of up to 50,000 ft³ in volume.
    • Buildings larger than 50,000 ft³ in volume require a licensed Professional Engineer or Architect to perform the calculations.

For all applications: Provide a site plan and placement plan showing the location of the solar energy system on the lot and the design of the solar energy system. The placement plan also shall include the location of improvements on adjoining lots as well as landscaping on the lot and adjoining lots that impacts the location of the solar system.

If the property is in a historic district:
  • Inquire about special requirements and further information. Contact Preservation Planner Amy Scanlon ascanlon@cityofmadison.com or 266-6552 before application.
  • Show elevation drawings.
  • If collectors won’t be visible from street the Landmarks Commission staff person (Amy Scanlon) can sign off, if collectors are visible from street level the Landmarks Commission needs to approve. Consider this for your schedule! Go to: Legislative Information Center.
  • Maps and background information regarding historic districts are available from the Landmarks Commission.
  • Consider less visible panel locations and be prepared to provide evidence that less visible locations are less economical.

If the property is in a PD:

  • An “Alteration to an approved & recorded specific implementation plan” needs to be approved along with site plan and placement plan of proposed collectors
  • The local alder person needs to sign the application before it is submitted to the city zoning department.
  • Processing of the application can take two weeks plus the time to obtain alder’s signature. Lookup your Alder
  • Instructions and application for alterations to an existing PD.

If the property is in a Urban Design district:

  • Provide site plan and placement plan of proposed collectors to city UDC staff person who typically can approve the application. Contact Planner Al Martin amartin@cityofmadison.com or 267-8740 before application.
  • Maps of UDC districts

If the property contains a Conditional Use:

  • A minor alteration to the conditional use is required.
  • Provide a site plan and placement plan of proposed collectors and contact zoning staff at 266-4551.
  • Instructions and application for alterations to an existing conditional use.

Step 4: Application

In case your property is in a PD, Urban Design district, or historic district, contact the appropriate staff (s. step 3) to make special arrangements prior to your application. These staff might not be available if you show up unannounced and the process might require more days.

In cases where the PD, Urban Design district, or historic issues are resolved or not applicable, show up at the permit office during business hours with all your documents and be prepared to pay the fees. If all documents are complete and acceptable, you will receive your permit right away.

You may call the Zoning and Building Inspection Staff prior visiting the zoning counter to double-check if you are unsure about any of the requirements.

Step 5: Approval

Once approved you will receive the permits, which need to be displayed at the construction site. The permit will include contact information for the inspector(s) who can answer more questions. You will need to schedule for inspections during and after construction. Work needs to be inspected before you may proceed with the next step. After completion there will be a final inspection. You are responsible to arrange those inspections with the inspector.