New to business- Residential Solar design PE required

I am in the process of setting up my own solar installation business in California. I wanted to see if I could design the grid-tied system(single-line diagram etc). Does it require a Electrical PE license? I read that the mechanical part(for racking loads) will require mech PE but I operate in northern california and the systems will be roof mounted.

How do other installers tackle this design issue? Do you sub-contract this out?
I think bigger installers have in-house electrical PEs.

I have a master's degree in electrical engg but not a licensed PE so its a little frustrating not able to design it even though I understand the details.

Please help.... Any sugesstions welcome.

Comments

  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Solar Expert Posts: 1,962 ✭✭✭
    Re: New to business- Residential Solar design PE required

    In general, when one is a paid general contractor you must be hire people for every trade used in your business if you as the GC are not so qualified.

    You'll need a general contractors license, those require you have years of verifiable experience as a general contractor and require a bond posting. For all the specific trades that your project require, they will need there own certifications. PE for mechanical, Master Electrician for Electrical and what ever else the local or state building department or agency's should require.

    Having a masters in Engineering means nothing in regards to being a for hire general contractor, that's just a piece of paper saying you went to school. The State licenses are what do matter and its a long road to obtain them, all require substantial amount of journeyman time, meaning actual in the field experience on top of academic training
  • ggunnggunn Solar Expert Posts: 1,973 ✭✭✭
    Re: New to business- Residential Solar design PE required
    damialok wrote: »
    I am in the process of setting up my own solar installation business in California. I wanted to see if I could design the grid-tied system(single-line diagram etc). Does it require a Electrical PE license? I read that the mechanical part(for racking loads) will require mech PE but I operate in northern california and the systems will be roof mounted.

    How do other installers tackle this design issue? Do you sub-contract this out?
    I think bigger installers have in-house electrical PEs.

    I have a master's degree in electrical engg but not a licensed PE so its a little frustrating not able to design it even though I understand the details.

    Please help.... Any sugesstions welcome.
    Do you need a P.E. to do residential systems in California?
  • russruss Solar Expert Posts: 593 ✭✭
    Re: New to business- Residential Solar design PE required

    Like Solar Guppy said - first thing is the General Contractor's license. If it is like North Carolina you either have to have one or to hire someone that does have the license.

    Then

    Your OP made it sound like you had decided to do something neat so here we go. There are easier ways to get invited to parties by green friends than this.

    Russ
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: New to business- Residential Solar design PE required
    In general, when one is a paid general contractor you must be hire people for every trade used in your business if you as the GC are not so qualified.

    You'll need a general contractors license, those require you have years of verifiable experience as a general contractor and require a bond posting. For all the specific trades that your project require, they will need there own certifications. PE for mechanical, Master Electrician for Electrical and what ever else the local or state building department or agency's should require.

    Having a masters in Engineering means nothing in regards to being a for hire general contractor, that's just a piece of paper saying you went to school. The State licenses are what do matter and its a long road to obtain them, all require substantial amount of journeyman time, meaning actual in the field experience on top of academic training

    Thanks for your recommendation. My partner is a licensed GC with 20 yrs exp. So we are set on installation part.
    My question was how do other california installers handle design? Do they considered it as another cost and sub-contract it?
    Like Russ suggested there are ways to make green friends... Can you point me in a direction so that I can discover these please?
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: New to business- Residential Solar design PE required
    ggunn wrote: »
    Do you need a P.E. to do residential systems in California?

    Well I sent am email to the state board(PELS) and they specifically stated that Solar design falls under the PE act so I will need someone with PE license to handle that part LEGALLY.
    It might be different issue if the local municipal jurisdictions might not need a PE to issue a permit.
    I am just concerned about the PELS enforcement. Or am I just paranoid?
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,500 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: New to business- Residential Solar design PE required
    ggunn wrote: »
    Do you need a P.E. to do residential systems in California?

    Depends on the city, but generally, yes, plans submitted for permit need to prove the roof is capable of holding the load. City accepted my existing blueprints that were stamped by engineer. (there was enough reserve load on 2x12's)

    All home jobs hired out to "someone", that cost over $500, require the "someone" be a licensed contractor. You can hire a handyman to replace a light fixture, but past $500, a contractors lic is needed.
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • dwhdwh Solar Expert Posts: 1,341 ✭✭✭
    Re: New to business- Residential Solar design PE required
    You'll need a general contractors license, those require you have years of verifiable experience as a general contractor

    Woops! Gotcha Guppy - you just described a tailchasing loop.


    To get a general contractor's license in CA requires 4 years of verifiable experience as a journeyman, foreman, contractor (as in sub-contractor) or owner-builder. Two years can be substituted by certain college degrees.
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 4,865 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: New to business- Residential Solar design PE required

    And technically in California for electrical a C10 General Contractor but it depends on the city as mentioned and also the lubrication schedule... Do good quality work and one follows the other.
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: New to business- Residential Solar design PE required
    damialok wrote: »
    I am in the process of setting up my own solar installation business in California. I wanted to see if I could design the grid-tied system(single-line diagram etc). Does it require a Electrical PE license? I read that the mechanical part(for racking loads) will require mech PE but I operate in northern california and the systems will be roof mounted.

    How do other installers tackle this design issue? Do you sub-contract this out?
    I think bigger installers have in-house electrical PEs.

    I have a master's degree in electrical engg but not a licensed PE so its a little frustrating not able to design it even though I understand the details.

    Please help.... Any sugesstions welcome.


    I am a licensed C-46 Installer in Southern California (Specialty Trade "solar"). This means that I am licensed, by the state, to sell, service and install Solar Thermal and Solar Pv. We do not have a P.E on staff and we do not sub-out our design. The licensing requirements for installing PV in Ca. are as follows: C-46, C-10, B-1 and certain A licenses (engineer as a licensed contractor).
    C-46 Solar
    C-10 Electrical
    B-1 General

    The design and engineering requirements are different throughout municipalities. With my experience, I can tell you that for residential and small commercial installations, you do not need a P.E to stamp your PV plans. I install mainly residential, and the only time that I run into issues needing to be addressed by a P.E, are structural issues. This happens only in certain municipalities. Most AHJ's will allow you to install solar without a structural P.E review and approval if you verify that the weight of the system is below 4 lbs. per sq. ft.. If you are installing a ground mount system, especially on a hillside, you will need to provide site specific structural engineering. As far as the PV design goes, having a masters in EE will obviously allow you to properly design an efficient, code compliant system, as long as you have done your PV homework. Your partner, who is the G.C, will list his license, ( or possibly both of yours, if you are a legal state recognized partnership ), and sign off, on the plan set that you will design. For Resi this is all that I am required to do. I deal in cities that have stringent requirements, that being said, every city can adopt there own requirements. These day's most cities will list their PV submittal requirements on their websites. NorCal has been ahead of the curve with PV for quite sometime so most AHJ's are on board with procedure, whether it makes sense or not. Good Luck in your endeavors. This is a highly competitive market.
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