In most cases, solar panel installations in Australia do not require Council development approval. This is because they are considered "Complying Development." However, specific guidelines must be followed. This includes ensuring the system is flush or parallel with the roof, does not reduce the structural integrity of the building, and is not visible from the street.
Council approval may be required if the property is a Heritage item or located in a Heritage Conservation area. The rules and regulations for obtaining permits for solar panel installations vary by state. Some require an electrical contractor's license or building incense to complete the work.
It is essential to check with the local council and a trusted installer to obtain all necessary permits before beginning a solar panel installation.
Do I need any sort of Council approval to install solar?
In some instances, you will need Council involvement. In most cases in Australia, Council approval to install solar is not required.
The reason is that solar panels in most local government areas in Australia will be seen as “Complying Development”. Therefore, complying with development items such as fences, awnings, etc., is allowed without Council permission as long as they follow specific guidelines.
Also, many Councils nowadays want to support renewable energy. So it does not make sense for them to put too much red tape in front of a solar installation.
If you would like to have panels installed, you will need to ensure that the solar installation company follows the following general requirements:
- The solar system is flush or parallel with the roof’s surface or integrated into the building. This means that your panels have been installed to hang over the gutter of the building. However, the installation would be non-compliant because the rainwater would not enter the channel correctly. But might spill onto your or your neighbour’s fence, walkway, or garden area below the panels.
- The development means the system does not reduce the structural integrity of the building or roof.
- The solar system installation is not a reason to illegally remove trees near the building to minimise shade on your roof. Instead, you are reducing output by the solar system.
- The system is not located on a building that is a State or local heritage item or is in a heritage conservation area.
Some councils may also require panels not to be visible from the street. It’s essential to check with your local council and a trusted installer. Ensuring you meet the local requirements before installing a PV system.
Heritage listed homes
If your home is heritage-listed, special conditions apply in many Council areas. The reason is that the look and appearance of your house are to be preserved as much as possible. In addition, they are allowing future generations to appreciate the architecture of the past.
Therefore if your home is a listed Heritage item or is located within a Heritage Conservation area, you will need to see the council before the commencement of the installation.
You will most likely require council approval, which will need to be processed as a development application. Otherwise referred to as a “DA” (term may vary from state to state). The DA approval process will go. However, your council may consider the following:
- The positioning of the solar panel depends on your home style (Freestanding, terrace, semi-detached etc.),
- If the proposed installation will cause irreversible alterations or
- Risk of roof damage or if your roof has been constructed with “high-value roofing materials”.
Again, if unsure, speak with your trusted installer and the local council, as they can clarify the matter specific to your circumstance. They can advise if your particular home requires council approval and how you can have solar installed on your home safely and legally.
So, to summarise, you generally do not need approval from the council to install solar. This is Unless your property is listed as a Heritage item or is located within a Heritage Conservation area.
Australia-wide rules and regulations about council approval to install solar
Approval for solar panel installations in Australia works on a state-by-state basis. Each state has its rules and regulations, although exactly which permit you to need depends on which State in Australia you are from. Below is a general overview of the regulations in different States.
New South Wales
Only those with an electrical contractor’s license or a building incense can contract to install a solar system in properties in NSW. Moreover, it is illegal to undergo electrical work if unqualified. According to the Home Building Act of 1989. Electrical work can only be completed by holders of an electrical contractor license or by/under the supervision of someone with an electrical qualified supervisor certificate.
It is also important to note that if the total installation costs of your solar system go beyond $20,000. Then a cover certification under the Home Building Compensation Scheme must be provided.
Something else you may want to consider is deposits and contracts. The Home Building Act of 1989 states that 10% of the contract price is the maximum a customer can be asked to pay. In terms of contracts, a written contract must be issued for work over $5,000. If over $5,000, a Fair Trading Consumer Building guide must also be provided.
If you live in a heritage house in NSW, you must take note that you only need developmental approval if the works are not by the following government document:
In Victoria, contractors/installers will need specific certifications to build the system. However, in most situations, you will not need an actual solar system permit. Local government areas (LGAs) throughout Victoria will only require council approval if the solar panels protrude excessively when given the street or public spaces (often over 20/30cm).
Most commonly, however, permits are required if the area is heritage or the building. In particular, it is of heritage. Suppose you are unsure whether you need a license for your unique situation. We urge you to contact your local council office; most often, they will swiftly point you in the right direction.
If you are sure that you need a permit application, the following link is quite useful:https://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/building-and-development/planning-and-building-services/planning-applications/Pages/planning-applications.aspx
The installer and contractor certifications/license requirements in Victoria are a registered Energy Safe Victoria unrestricted Class A Electrical Licence and the Clean Energy Council (CEC) Solar Accreditation Scheme accreditation.
In Queensland, like Victoria and NSW, solar panels will be installed on Heritage houses. Exemptions/permits are only required if the intended installation is in an obtrusive position and is visible from the street. Moreover, if the intended installation is over 5kWh, then it is advised by the Queensland Government that the property owner contacts the local council for approval.
Within the State of Queensland and around Australia. Installers must be accredited by the Clean Energy Council (CEC) Accreditation scheme and provide products that meet Australian standards that the CEC approves. Installers must also have a Queensland electrical contractors license and a Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) License.
For SA, like NSW and VIC, if the property is heritage-listed or resides in a listed heritage area. Then permits may need to be issued by the local council of the house if the panels are obtrusive or are visible from the street. A Clean Energy Council-registered electrician must complete the physical installation and labour associated with such. Who has successfully concluded the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors (SA) Roof Safety Course?
Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
ACT contractors/installers must maintain an electrical license and the standard Clean Energy Council accreditation. In the ACT, similar heritage rules apply as in other states.
Approval are only needed when you would like to install solar panels, given it is on a heritage-listed house or in a heritage area. However, you may also want to note that even if the residence is not heritage-listed, if the solar panels protrude excessively, local government permission may also be required.
In Western Australia, pages 4 – 6 of https://www.wa.gov.au/system/files/2021-11/renewable-energy-systems-in-state-registered-places.pdf outlines restrictions for solar panel installation on state-registered heritage properties. This government document outlines parameters for solar installation on Visible roof locations of heritage properties. But summarises that cases are worked on a case-by-case basis; therefore, approvals are required for installation on these properties.
On non-heritage properties in Western Australia. No approvals are required unless the roof covers multiple dwellings or is a commercial building.
Tasmanian solar guidelines are similar to the other states. Especially their rules on heritage. Here it says, “The local government area should be contacted if solar installation on a heritage listed site is required” A Comprehensive guide can be found on this government website – https://www.cbos.tas.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/567985/Guide-on-solar-panel-installations.pdf
The Northern Territory has some of Australia’s most unique requirements for solar panel installation. First, building permits and final inspections by registered certification authorities are required in terms of tickets for property owners looking to install solar on their property. In Cyclonic regions of NT, certification is compulsory. Moreover, in the non-cyclonic areas, PV panel support fixing must be approved by the Clean Energy Council.