Decode the code: Residential solar panels

Learn more about the benefits, regulations, and steps for installing solar panels in Portland.

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Installing a solar panel or solar panel array like this project by Elemental Energy of Portland can help reduce your home’s energy consumption.

Photo by Cboyce89

This is the time of year when many of us look longingly to the sky, hoping to catch a glimpse of the sun. That big ball of fire likes to play coy during winter, but it can be a bit too friendly once summer sets in. One way or another, the PNW’s fickle relationship with our solar system’s star can result in high electricity bills — so maybe it’s time to consider other options. Enter: solar power.

Maybe you’ve thought about installing solar panels but didn’t know where to start. The answer? Understanding the city of Portland’s residential requirements, which we’re here to help with.

What is solar power + how does it help?

Solar power captures the sun’s radiation to help reduce the cost of electricity, contribute to a resilient electrical grid, and generate backup power.

Taking advantage of solar technology comes with upfront fees for installation and equipment — including photovoltaics or various types of panels — but saves money over time, especially with the associated 22%-30% federal tax credit, Energy Trust of Oregon incentives, and state rebates.

Local regulations

Solar panels are allowed across the entire city of Portland, but some properties — such as those in historic districts — require additional reviews based on the project’s location. Check out PortlandMaps to look up an address and learn more about its zoning. You’ll also need to check whether your property can connect to the city’s power grid.

Use the city’s portal to learn more about which permit pathway is best for you, then apply for a solar permit on Development Hub PDX. Pro tip: Watch this walkthrough.

Getting started

A qualified solar installer — like Blue Raven Solar or Smart Solar Energy — can help determine the appropriate size panel based on your energy needs, roof size, and sun exposure.

Check out SolarReviews or EcoWatch to compare prices and ratings of local companies or explore Forbes’ top recommendations. Hiring a qualified contractor (vs doing it yourself) is also a requirement to be eligible for certain incentives.

Still have questions? Schedule a free 15-minute virtual appointment to meet with a city planner.