How Long Does it Take to Install a Solar System?

“Hey, it’s Thanksgiving, can you do me a favor and have my solar system installed this year?”

Unfortunately, the answer to the above question is; it is highly unlikely. Why? Is it because Rayah Solar is slow? No, that is not the case. In reality, it takes about 45-60 days, from the time someone signs up for solar, to the time of their solar installation. If you include commissioning and inspections, the total solar project timeline can span about 90 days (three months). Please note, these are the norms, not the anomalies.

The below graphic depicts a pretty normal solar process for a typical residential solar project. Commercial solar timelines vary based on a whole slew of other factors.

Stage 1

Starts with you e-signing the solar installation agreement. That is day one. Over the next few days, we will process your paperwork and assign you a Project Manager, who will reach out to you with both an introductory call and email. At Rayah Solar, you will have your own Project Manager, with their direct contact information.

Stage 2

Includes a full site evaluation followed by design and engineering. Typically, this takes about two weeks, but in some cases it can take longer (i.e. the homeowner is away or our engineer has questions about the design). Once the design is complete, we send you your solar panel layout for final approval. Sometimes, a customer will ask us to move a solar panel, which we are happy to accommodate. However, it should be noted that design changes like these add time to the solar project.

Stage 3

Is permit and application submission. This includes local building and electrical permits, utility interconnection application, and a SMART application. Some projects may have additional local permits (zoning, conservation, historical, etc…), local rebates, or Mass Solar Loan applications. Please note, all of this is happening simultaneously, but we can not install the solar system until all the permits are approved. Altogether, the average time in permitting is one month. So as you can see, we are already at day 45 of our project timeline!

Stage 4

Is the actual solar installation, and usually takes 1-3 days, although larger or more complicated projects will take longer. Typically, we like to drop off the solar panels a day or two before the installation, so when our crew arrives, they can get right to work. There are factors that can delay an installation including bad weather (rain, snow, freezing temperatures). Also sometimes the electrical inspector wants to examine the framing/rails and grounding of the solar system before we install the actual panels. Waiting on inspectors to complete these rough inspections during the course of the installation can further exacerbate wait times.

Then There is Stage 5

Take a deep breath! Stage 5: the dreaded and painfully slow inspections and utility commissioning. This is actually a two step process (four depending on how you count the steps). First the electrical/wiring inspector needs to inspect the solar installation. No problem right. Well, sometimes it is. Let’s say we finish the installation on a Wednesday. We call the inspector at 8:00 the next morning and request an inspection. They say “we can come out next Thursday.” We ask, “can you do it any earlier? How about Monday or Tuesday?” They say, “nope, next Thursday.” Alright, so that is already a week!

After the electrical inspection, we need to wait for the electrical inspector to submit the paperwork to the utility company. Can we help or expedite that? No, we can’t. We can kindly request they submit the paperwork as soon as possible, but ultimately we have no control of them.

Next, the utility has 10 business days to install the NET and SMART meters. Please note, if there are any big storms, those meter installations are put on hold. That has happened a couple of times this summer and usually a couple times each winter. After the meter installations, we still have to wait for the utility to give the solar installation “Permission to Operate (PTO).” Once PTO is granted, the solar system can be energized. All together, Stage 5 usually takes about a month 😒. So as you can see, the three month timeline of a solar project is not fantasy, it is what you should expect.

Chinks in the Armor

Again, the above timelines are under normal conditions. With COVID-19 and other semi-normal things like adverse weather or inspectors going on vacation, these timelines can be delayed. We recently had an installation in Boston, which was hammered with delays outside of our control. First, we had to contend with COVID-19 delays and await the city to approve our COVID-19 procedures. After the installation, the inspector went on vacation, causing further delays. We don’t point these things out to frighten anyone, but merely to point out that they happen.

Great Expectations

No, not the book silly 😁. We believe that setting expectations are really important. When people know what to expect they are not let down by what we would consider a “normal” timeline. Nobody wants to wait a month after their solar installation to turn it on, but that’s reality.

In the end, your solar panel system will be on your roof for 25 years plus! We hope you’d agree, with something like that, it’s important to do it right the first time. We hope this blog on solar timelines has been helpful and gives you a good idea what to expect in your solar journey.

If you have any questions about solar project timelines or about solar in general, please feel free to contact your Solar Consultant or our office at 617-564-3159.

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