Rules, Codes and Regulations
So you’ve decided what you’d like to accomplish. Before you get ahead of yourself, you’ll want to get in contact with any, and every, entity that could have a say in what you can do with your ‘personal’ property. Installing a solar power system will require some construction and installation. There will be solar panels either on your roof or in your yard. If you intend to have a grid-tied (net metering) system, the utility company will need to be contacted to determine their rules and safety requirements. Local building codes will need to be consulted. Your neighborhood association, city zoning and county laws should be investigated. You may even want to discuss your intended project with your immediate neighbors. Not only can they create hassles for you during construction (i.e. “There was this truck blocking my drive for 5 minutes.” or “They are making quite a racket over there & I want something done about it!”, etc, etc.), what if the neighbor decides to plant trees that will block the sunlight to your panels? Basically, confer with everybody, down to the area dog catcher, to alleviate potential headaches later. Here is a link to a checklist needed by the City of Berkeley, CA, in order to be issued a permit to install a solar power system. It should give you an idea of what your local authority my require.
Although there are laws, codes, regulations, stipulations and opinions that can be a real drag but depending on where you live, some governing rules can actually be of assistance completing a DIY solar power system project. The State of California, in general, is a good example where laws are favorable & residence are encouraged toward green energy through legislation.
A good place to get started learning solar law and policy in your state is DSIRE. (some local info may be available there too) I would recommend searching the Internet and using the phone book to learn about the rules applicable to your specific location.
Of course all of the rules about setting it up will be unique to your particular locale. The same thing is also true regarding incentives, rebates and tax credits. At the time of this posting, the Federal Government offers many incentives to encourage residential solar power. In addition to DSIRE also look at energy.gov and energystar.gov for substantial savings relating to all aspects of installing a solar power system. You should also ask your local government if they offer any incentives or rebates.
The next step will be things to consider about the physical setup of your system. Things like estimating your solar power requirements, available solar energy (sunlight) in your area and home energy conservation.