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Division of Land Use Regulation
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Solar Installations

  • Overview
  • Freshwater Wetlands
  • Flood Hazard
  • Coastal
  • Tidelands
  • FAQ

Solar PanelsThe construction of solar panels may require an approval from the Division of Land Use Regulation depending on the characteristics of the proposed structures as well as the proposed construction location. On September 7, 2010, the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:13), the Coastal Permit Program Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7-1.1 et seq.) and the Coastal Zone Management Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7E-1.1 et seq.) were amended to include exemptions, permit-by-rules, and revised requirements for individual permits for solar panel installations.

Please refer to each section for more information and guidance on how solar panels are regulated and what permits may be required for their construction in New Jersey. Copies of all the rules and regulations discussed in the following sections can be obtained from the “Laws and Regulations” section of the website.

Note: The Division supports the development of renewable energy projects in an effort to limit dependence on non renewable energy sources. It is recommended and encouraged that construction of these project be sited within developed areas of the State wherever possible to limit impact to the State's natural environment.

The proposed installation of solar panels within an area of freshwater wetlands or associated transition areas would require approval from the Division of Land Use Regulation in accordance with the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7A. Further information for determining the presence of wetlands and the width of the associated transition area on a particular site can be found in the “Freshwater Wetlands” section of the website and in the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7A).

The installation of solar panels resulting in the disturbance of freshwater wetlands and associated transition area will require a Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit. The requirements for a Freshwater Wetlands Individual Permit can be found in the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7A) under Subchapter 7 – Individual Freshwater Wetlands and Open Water Fill Permits (N.J.A.C. 7:7A-7).

If the installation of solar panels will result in disturbance to transition areas only, then a Transition Area Waiver may be obtained for the project. Information about the available Transition Area Waivers can be found in the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7A) under Subchapter 6 – Transition Area Waivers (N.J.A.C. 7:7A-6).

The installation of solar panels not requiring a CAFRA or Waterfront Development permit as described below and constructed in a flood hazard area or riparian zone of a regulated water will require a Flood Hazard Area permit issued in accordance with the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules at N.J.A.C. 7:13. For more information on determining the flood hazard area or width of a riparian zone, please refer to the “Streams and Rivers” section of the website and the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:13).

Authorization may be granted under a Permit by Rule (PBR).  Potential qualifying PBRs include those found in N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(a)2, N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(b)6, or N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(b)9.  Please refer to the rules to see the all of the applicable conditions where each PBR would apply.  Some special notes about these PBRs are listed as follows.

N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(a)2 – In order to qualify for this PBR, the entire area of proposed disturbance must be located outside of the flood hazard area.  In addition, with this PBR, the Department’s Division of Coastal and Land Use Compliance and Enforcement must be notified of construction at least 2 weeks prior to the start of any construction.

N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(b)6 – In order to qualify for this PBR, please note that the controlling flood hazard area must be tidal, as opposed to fluvial. 

N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.2(b)9 – This PBR is designated for an open structure with a roof.  For this PBR, the Department notes that each photovoltaic cell is considered to be an open structure wherein the solar panel acts as a de facto “roof” supported by posts.  With this in mind, the Division can qualify the project under this PBR provided that the photovoltaic cells are situated 1 foot above the flood hazard elevation.

If the proposed solar panel installation does not qualify for a permit-by-rule in the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:13), then a Flood Hazard Area Individual Permit will be needed. In addition to the Flood Hazard Area Individual Permit, a Flood Hazard Area Verification may also be needed unless the project is constructed in accordance with the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules at N.J.A.C. 7:13-9.6(b).

The installation of solar panels under a Flood Hazard Area Individual Permit will require compliance with the all applicable regulations in the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:13) including but not limited to Requirements that apply to all regulated activities (N.J.A.C. 7:13-11.1), Requirements for excavation, fill and grading activities (N.J.A.C. 7:13-11.3) and Requirements for a structure (N.J.A.C. 7:13-11.4). In addition, any disturbance to vegetation within a riparian zone from construction of wind turbines will require compliance with the regulations for all other regulated activities in the Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules at N.J.A.C. 7:13-10.2(r).

The Coastal Zone Management Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7E-1.1 et seq.) and the Coastal Permit Program Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7-1.1 et seq.) regulate solar panel development within New Jersey’s coastal zone, specifically within the CAFRA area, Waterfront Development area, and within areas of mapped coastal wetlands.

The proposed site location will impact the type of coastal permit needed for the installation of solar panels. The installation of solar panels anywhere within the CAFRA area is considered industrial development and is a regulated activity requiring a CAFRA permit. Within the Waterfront Development area, the installation of solar panels would require an In-Water Waterfront Development permit if the structure(s) are located below the mean high water line of any tidal waters. The installation of solar panels outside of the CAFRA area would require an Upland Waterfront Development permit if constructed within 500 feet landward of the mean high water line of a tidal waterway. Any construction activities within an area of coastal wetlands mapped on the applicable Coastal Wetlands maps pursuant to the Wetlands Act of 1970 (N.J.S.A. 13:9A-1 et seq.) will require a Coastal Wetlands permit.

Please refer to the “Jurisdiction” section of the "Coastal Permitting" section of the webpage to determine which areas regulated under the Coastal Permit Program Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7-1.1 et seq.) and the Coastal Zone Management Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7E-1.1 et seq.) occur on your site. The availability of certain permits and exemptions for a project depends on where your project is proposed.  Additional information regarding the Division’s coastal program can be found on the “Coastal Permitting” section of this website.  Please contact the Division’s Technical Support Center for further assistance.

Please refer to the sections below to determine if the proposed installation of solar panels within CAFRA or Waterfront Development jurisdiction qualifies for an exemption or a permit-by-rule.  If the project does not qualify for an exemption or permit-by-rule, then an Individual permit will be required.  If an Individual permit is required, the project must comply with all applicable regulations found in the Coastal Zone Management Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7E-1.1 et seq.) including but not limited to Subchapter 5 – Requirements for Impervious Cover and Vegetative Cover For General Land Areas and Certain Special Areas (N.J.A.C. 7:7E-5) and the Energy Facility Use Rule (N.J.A.C. 7:7E-7.4).

This coastal exemption may apply to your project –The installation of solar panels may qualify for an exemption from the requirements under the CAFRA and Waterfront Development regulations in certain instances depending on the specifics of the project. In accordance with the Coastal Permit Program Rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.1(a)13 and N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.3(d)5, the installation of solar panels would not require a CAFRA or Waterfront Development permit if the project meets one of the following requirements:

  • The solar panels are on or structurally attached to a legally existing building;
  • The solar panels are on or structurally attached to a utility pole (electric, telephone, cable and lighting) within a maintained utility right-of-way or structurally attached to a parking lot light pole;
  • The solar panels are on legally existing impervious cover unless the solar panels would be located in a floodway; or
  • The solar panels are located on a sanitary landfill provided the solar panel development is included in the Closure and Post-Closure Care Plan or modified plan as approved by the Department in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:26.

This coastal permit-by-rule may apply to your project --

  • Permit-by-Rule 13- The installation of solar panels at a residential development requiring either a CAFRA or Waterfront Development permit may qualify for a permit-by-rule in accordance with the Coastal Permit Program Rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.2(a)13. The permit-by-rule allows for the installation of solar panels on maintained lawn or in a landscaped area on a single family home or duplex lot.  In addition to the location requirements mentioned above, the project must comply with additional requirements such as setbacks from special areas.  Please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.2(a)13 for information on the requirements of this permit-by-rule.

 

Tidelands, also known as riparian lands, are all those lands now or formerly flowed by the mean high tide of a natural waterway; that is to say any land that is currently or was previously covered by tidal waters.  The State of New Jersey, and therefore the people of New Jersey, owns all Tidelands except for those to which it has already sold its interest in the form of a riparian grant.  It is important to note that the State generally does not own artificial waterways such as lagoons however, the State does claim those lands within a lagoon that were flowed by the mean high tide of a natural waterway which existed prior to the creation of the lagoon.

Solar panels that are proposed in a tidelands area may require a tidelands license if the activities are taking place at or below the mean high water line of a tidal waterway or a tidelands grant if the activities are taking place in an area that is currently landward of the mean high water line but was, at some point, flowed by the tide.

A tidelands license is a short term revocable rental document to use tidelands generally for structures such as docks, bulkhead extensions, mooring piles, and other temporary structures as well as for dredging projects. Licenses are project specific and expire after a finite term ranging from one to ten years. Most licenses may be renewed.

For more information on tidelands instruments, please see the tidelands section of this website.

For information and instruction on how to determine whether you are in an area that may require either a license or a grant, or for information how to apply for Tideland instruments please see the "Before you Build, Before you Buy" webpage.

1. What portion of the solar panels are considered impervious when calculating the proposed impervious cover on a particular site as required under Subchapter 5 in the Coastal Zone Management Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7E-1.1 et seq.)?

1. Answer: In accordance with Senate Bill 921, approved by the New Jersey Legislature on April 22, 2010, the solar panels shall not be included in the calculation of proposed impervious cover at the site. However, any bases, foundations or mounting structures for the solar panels shall be counted in the proposed impervious cover calculation for the site.

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Last Updated: May 21, 2014