Capitol Hill Restoration Society

Zoning Protections for Solar

Posted on May 22nd, 2023 by Elizabeth Nelson

The following zoning regulations protect solar installations from development that would interfere with their operation.
11 DCMR Subtitle E, Chapter 2

  • 206.3
    Any new building, or alteration or addition to an existing building, including a rooftop structure or penthouse (the proposed construction) at the time of application, shall not significantly interfere with the operation of a solar energy system on an abutting property, unless agreed to by the owner of the solar energy system, subject to the following:  

    • (a) “Time of application” shall mean the earlier of either:
      • (1) The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs officially accepts as complete the application for the building permit for the proposed construction; or
      • (2) the Office of Zoning officially accepts as complete an application for zoning relief for the proposed construction;
    • (b) “Solar energy system” shall mean a solar energy system of at least 2kW in size that, at the time of application, is either:
      • (1) Legally permitted, installed, and operating; or
      • (2) Authorized by an issued permit; provided that the permitted solar energy system is operative within six (6) months after the issuance of the solar energy system permit not including grid interconnection delays caused solely by a utility company connecting to the solar energy system;
    • (c) “Significantly interfere” shall mean that the proposed construction increases the shading incident on the solar energy system by more than five percent (5%), as determined by a comparative solar shading study acceptable to the Zoning Administrator; and
    • (d) All applications for the proposed construction, whether for a building permit or for zoning relief, must include one of the following:
      • (1) An affidavit by the applicant stating that there is no solar energy system on an abutting property;
      • (2) A comparative solar shading study that meets the minimum standard established by the Zoning Administrator for the purpose of determining the increased annual incident solar shading by percent; or
      • (3) A written agreement executed by the owner of the impacted solar energy system accepting the interference with the solar energy system. 
  • 206.4
    Relief from the requirements of Subtitle E §§ 206.1 and 206.3 may be approved by the Board of Zoning Adjustment as a special exception under Subtitle X, Chapter 9, and subject to the conditions of Subtitle E § 5207.