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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 Division of Land Use Regulation supports solar panel projects which aid in limiting dependence on non-renewable energy sources.  In an effort to limit impacts to the State's natural environment, the Division encourages the siting of solar projects within developed areas of the State.

Solar panel projects may require authorization from the Division of Land Use Regulation depending on the characteristics of the proposed structures, the project location, and impacts to “special areas” regulated by the Department.  Such disturbances may require multiple permits from the Division of Land Use Regulation prior to site preparation or construction. The presence or absence of special areas can be rudimentarily determined using the Department’s online mapping service, NJ-GeoWeb.  Special areas within your project site may also affect the type of authorization required.  Therefore, it is important to closely examine a proposed project relative to the sensitive areas which may be impacted. 

The above tabs provide additional information on permit requirements relating to solar panel projects.   For impacts to streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, flood plains, flood ways, riparian zones, please see the "Flood Hazard" tab. For impacts to special coastal areas, please see the "Coastal" tab. For impacts to Freshwater Wetlands, see the "Freshwater Wetlands" tab.  Information on Tidelands can be found by selecting the "Tidelands" tab.

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).

Per the Coastal Zone Management rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7, a solar panel is an elevated panel or plate, or a canopy or array thereof, that captures and converts solar radiation to produce power, and includes flat plate, focusing solar collectors, or photovoltaic solar cells and excludes the base or foundation of the panel, plate, canopy, or array.  Solar panel projects are considered industrial development pursuant to the Coastal Zone Management rules and may require a permit.  The solar panel project’s location will dictate whether a permit is required and the type of permit required.  If the proposed solar panel project does not qualify for the below described exemptions or Permit-by-rule, a CAFRA, Coastal Wetlands, and/or Waterfront Development Individual Permit may be required.  

The “Jurisdiction” tab of the "Coastal Areas" webpage can help you determine which areas of your site may be regulated.  The availability of certain permits depends on the project’s location.

Potentially applicable Exemptions:

Per N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.2(b)13, the installation of a solar panel(s) within CAFRA jurisdiction is not considered development which requires a CAFRA permit, provided the solar panel(s):

  • Is on or structurally attached to a legally existing building, a utility pole (electric, telephone, cable and lighting) within a maintained utility right-of-way, a parking lot light pole; or
  • Is on legally existing non-porous cover unless the solar panel is located in a floodway; or
  • Is on a sanitary landfill provided the solar panel 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.

Per N.J.A.C.7:7-2.4(d)5, the installation of a solar panel(s) within Upland Waterfront Development jurisdiction is not considered development which requires an Upland Waterfront Development permit, provided the solar panel(s):

  • Is on or structurally attached to a legally existing building, a utility pole (electric, telephone, cable and lighting) within a maintained utility right-of-way, a parking lot light pole; or
  • Is on legally existing non-porous cover unless the solar panel is located in a floodway; or
  • Is on a sanitary landfill provided the solar panel 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.

Potentially applicable Permit-by-rule (PBR):

PBR 13 - authorizes the installation of solar panels on a maintained lawn or landscaped area at a single-family home or duplex lot, provided:

  • The solar panel development shall not be located in or on dunes, beaches, wetlands, floodways, or coastal bluffs;
  • The solar panel development shall be setback a minimum of 50’ from the inland limit of any wetlands, beach, or dune;
  • The maintained lawn or landscaped area is not subject to a previous coastal permit requirement that it remain as vegetative cover; and
  • The solar panel development shall not be located within an area mapped as threatened or endangered species habitat on the Department’s Landscape Maps of Habitat for Endangered, Threatened and Other Priority Wildlife (Landscape Maps), except as provided below.  The Landscape Maps are available on the Department’s interactive mapping website at http://www.nj.gov/dep/gis;
    • The solar panel(s) is located within 120’ of an existing building on an actively maintained lawn or area of land that has been manipulated by contouring of the soil and/or by intentional planting of flowers, grasses, shrubs, trees or other ornamental vegetation, which is maintained in such a condition by regular and frequent (at least one time per year) cutting, mowing, pruning, planting, weeding or mulching; or
    • The solar panel(s) is located on legally existing non-porous cover.

Please see N.J.A.C. 7:7-4.13 for complete rule requirements.

Please contact the Division’s Technical Support Center at (609) 777-0454 should you require further assistance.

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: July 6, 2015