Development approvals for solar

Going solar in the Inner West

In many cases, solar installations are Exempt Developments, which means you don’t need planning approval from Council. 

Council has prioritised the roll out of rooftop solar systems (PV, solar hot water).  All Development Application fees will be waived, and we have created streamlined forms for solar-only applications. That means if you do need planning approval for your solar system, we've made it easier.

Do you need approval for your solar installation?

Approval is generally not required in the following cases:

  • The solar system does not protrude more than 0.5m from the point of attachment and is not attached to the ground, and
  • The solar system is installed on a property not affected by heritage considerations (either listed as a heritage item or within a heritage conservation area). If you aren't sure, read the heritage section below.

If your proposed solar installation meets all the requirements, you can go ahead with installation. You don't need Council approval.   For details of all requirements, please refer to clause 39(3) of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure).

If your installation doesn’t meet these requirements, you may need to lodge a Development Application (DA) . To check if you need a DA, read on.

A standard sized solar installation for inner west households is usually 3 to 6kW. Larger systems are likely to be relevant to businesses, schools and other non-residential properties.

If your property is a listed Heritage Item or within a Heritage Conservation Area

The Inner West's heritage buildings and heritage conservation areas enrich our precincts and make a positive contribution to the history and character of our urban environment. When adding solar panels to a property with heritage significance, it's important to respect these values.

In some cases, solar installation on a heritage property may not need planning approval. Follow the three steps below to see whether you fall into this category (known as "Exempt Development"). If you don't fall into this category, you may still be able to install solar – but you will need planning approval from Council (ie lodge a Development Application). See How to apply if you need development approval, below.

Council can assist you to work out the best options to install solar and retain your property's heritage significance.

Step 1: Check if your property is heritage listed

To check if your building is either a Heritage Item or in a Heritage Conservation Area, do an address search via the NSW Planning Portal Spatial Viewer:

  1. Insert address at top left of screen (select address tab at top left of page)
  2. Below the address section, go to "Layers"
  3. Select the drop-down "Principal Planning Layers" and tick both "State Heritage Register Curtilage" and "EPI Heritage" registers

If the address search results show your property in solid brown (Heritage Item) or diagonal red stripes (Heritage Conservation Area), then your property is affected by heritage.

Continue on to find out how to install solar without needing approval, while retaining your property's heritage value.

Step 2 – Review Council's best practice solar and heritage design guidance

a) Position solar panels where they will have minimal visual impact

Minimise visual impacts by placing solar panels where they cannot be seen from the primary road or other public locations. A primary road is the road to which the front of a house (or main building) faces. This is usually the road referenced in the property address.

Suggested solar panel positions include on rear additions, secondary wings or outbuildings, in roof valleys or behind parapets. Panels should not detract from the setting of the building.

Residential terraces
Freestanding homes
Corner properties
Semi-detached
Business strip shops
Outhouse
b) Solar panels should be parallel or at minimal projection from the roof plane (no greater than 0.5m)

Solar panels should be parallel or flush with the roof plane or use a bracket system with a minimal projection above the existing roof, to ensure they minimise interruption to the form of the historic roof.

c) Avoid irreversible alteration or damage

Ensure the building's fabric and structural integrity are protected when adding solar panels. New solar panels should be attached to avoid physical impacts to the historic structure and significant roofing materials.

Some roof cladding, like slate or timber shingles, are becoming increasingly rare in Sydney and have a high replacement cost.

High heritage value roofing materials
Lower heritage value roofing materials

Check if you need Council approval for your installation

The following flowchart provides guidance on whether you need Council approval for your installation. For the full details on when Council approval is required, please refer to clause 39(3) of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure). If you're still not sure, contact Council's Duty Planner who may be able to assist.

Flowchart: Do I need Council approval?

Download a copy of this flowchart (PDF 30KB)

How to apply if you do need development approval

If required, lodge a Development Application (DA) with Council through our streamlined fee-free solar-only DA process by completing the following forms and providing the required information.

  1. Development Application (DA) form (word) (pdf); and
  2. Statement of environmental effects form - solar energy systems (word) (pdf); and
  3. Provide a site plan (this is usually an aerial photo showing the location of the panels); and
  4. If the system is not flush with the roof, an elevation or section plan will be required.

You can find the forms listed in alphabetical order on our A-Z forms page.

Need help?

Contact our Duty Planner by phone on 02 9392 5000 or visit in person.

More information can be found on Council's Development Advisory Services page.

Please note that this page seeks to provide a simple explanation of the legislative requirements for when planning approval is required for solar systems.  Unfortunately, these requirements are not simple, which makes the task difficult. There will be other circumstances which will not require planning approval however, to capture all circumstances, would overly complicate this summary.   Therefore, if you need further assistance, please contact Council's Duty Planning Officer who may be able to assist.

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Page last updated: 21 May 2020