Bring on the Sun!  Licensing and Permitting for Contractors Installing Solar Panel Systems in NC

Spilman Thomas & Battle, PLLC

Spilman Thomas & Battle, PLLC

With the growing emphasis of the use of renewables to reduce the carbon footprint of homes and buildings and tax incentives, there has been a proliferation of solar companies to meet the ever-growing demand for solar energy. According to NC Solar Power Facts,  (NC Solar Power Facts, 2023), more than 200 solar companies are operating in North Carolina now. With this in mind, we wanted to pause a moment to remind contractors entering this business (and those already working on solar panel installations) about North Carolina licensing and permitting requirements.

  1. N.C. General Statutes Section 87.1(a) defines general contracting: “For the purpose of this Article any person or firm or corporation who for a fixed price, commission, fee, or wage, undertakes to bid upon or to construct or who undertakes to superintend or manage, on his own behalf or for any person, firm, or corporation that is not licensed as a general contractor pursuant to this Article, the construction of any building, highway, public utilities, grading or any improvement or structure where the cost of the undertaking is thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) or more, or undertakes to erect a North Carolina labeled manufactured modular building meeting the North Carolina State Building Code, shall be deemed to be a ‘general contractor’ engaged in the business of general contracting in the State of North Carolina.” The Statute also provides several exceptions (e.g., erecting industrial and power plan equipment, alterations to one’s personal home or building on one’s own land, and alterations for farm buildings).
  • N.C. General Statutes Section 87-43 defines electrical contracting: “Electrical contracting shall be defined as engaging or offering to engage in the business of installing, maintaining, altering, or repairing any electric work, wiring, devices, appliances, or equipment. No person, partnership, firm, or corporation shall engage, or offer to engage, in the business of electrical contracting within the State of North Carolina without having received a license in the applicable classification described in G.S. 87-43.3 from the State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors in compliance with the provisions of this Article, regardless of whether the offer was made, or the work was performed by a qualified individual as defined in G.S. 87-41.1.”
  • A general contractor may act as a subcontractor to the licensed electrician who is installing solar panels under N.C. General Statutes Section 87.1-1.
  • Depending on the value of the project, the general contractor must have the requisite license ($60,000 or less may have unlimited, intermediate or limited license; $150,000 or less, unlimited or intermediate license is needed; $150,000 or more, unlimited license needed).
  • Solar panel installations are considered electrical work unless the contractor’s scope of work includes structural or other improvements to the building valued at $30,000 or more and that would be work typically performed by licensed general contractors.
  • Building permits are required for all projects that cost $20,000 or more, including solar panel installations.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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