Getting Started with Solar

If you’re thinking about generating your own renewable power such as wind or solar, we’re here to support you. Learn about your options, find facts on the process, and get connected with this getting started overview.

Getting Started With Solar

Follow the steps below to learn more about getting solar or wind and if it is right for your household.

Solar guide

Step 1: Get Informed

The California Public Utilities Commission has put together the California Solar Consumer Protection Guide. This guide will take you through every step of the solar installation process, provide tips to select a qualified solar provider, and outline your rights as a consumer. 

 Did you know that your solar provider is required to collect your signature on the Solar Consumer Protection Guide before submitting your interconnection application? 

Step 2: Make Your Home Energy Efficient   

Reducing your energy use can reduce the size of the solar system you need, potentially saving you thousands of dollars. Visit for ways to save. You may also want to consider participating in a residential demand response program. 

Energy Efficient

Step 3: Select a Contractor   

Your contractor should be licensed and bonded and help with permits and paperwork. A qualified contractor can help guide you through the process.

It’s a good idea to do your homework so you can make the right decisions for your household. If you can, get referrals from friends and neighbors. Search for active solar contractors in your area using the California DG Stats search tool.

Step 4: Get Approved for Installation

Your solar generating system needs to be installed, permitted and approved for interconnection. Your city or county will perform an onsite inspection and provide the required permit(s). SDG&E will provide authorization to operate the solar system once proper installation and permitting are completed.

Get on the fast track. If you’re installing a system with capacity less than or equal to 30kW, ask your contractor to get you on the fast track. With additional documentation provided by your contractor, you may be able to bypass inspections and other steps to get “Permission to Operate” more quickly.  

Solar Installation

Getting Started FAQs

Going solar can benefit both the environment and your wallet. We’re here to support you during and after the transition, with backup energy from the grid and tools you can use to monitor and manage your energy habits, so you can make the most of your system.

  • Environmental Responsibility: Protecting the environment is its own reward, and by investing in a renewable system for your home or business, you can feel good about contributing to a cleaner Southern California.
  • Energy & Bill Savings: When you generate your own energy, you often need to buy less from the grid. Depending on your usage, this could reduce your bill. You can even earn bill credits for your excess energy, to offset costs when your system isn’t producing electricity, or during the summer when you use more than you generate.
  • Stay Connected: The existing power grid is already greener than you may think: 55% of our energy comes from wind and solar. Plus, it’s always there to back up your renewable system at night when the sun sets or the wind dies down, so you always have a reliable source of power.

Wondering how much going solar will cost? The size of the system you install is a major factor. We recommend making efficiency upgrades first – this may make your system size and equipment costs smaller. Once you’ve made your home or business as efficient as possible, you can use the California Solar Initiative’s (CSI) statewide calculator to get estimates on what size equipment you’ll need and your expected level of investment.

CSI Calculators

Incentives and rebates are available to make solar and renewable energy options more affordable. Explore your options and see if you qualify for financial support when you install or upgrade. Learn More

If you’re considering a renewable system, there are a number of steps you should take in making your decision. Often, the most cost-effective things you can do to reach your efficiency goals are simple, inexpensive upgrades and small changes to your energy-use habits. If you still want to install a renewable system, educate yourself on your options. There are a number of different types of solar and other self-generating systems available. It's also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the California Solar Consumer Protection Guide. Click here to view the guide.

The Solar Billing Plan is the new program for customers who install an eligible renewable generating system, like wind or solar, after April 14, 2023. The Solar Billing Plan succeeds the Net Energy Metering (NEM 2.0) program. Learn more about how the Solar Billing Plan works.

“Permission to Operate,” or PTO, simply refers to the date that you’ll start being a Net Energy Metering (NEM) customer. This means you’ve been approved and activated to start NEM on a specific date going forward.

Even if you invest in a self-generating system, you may not always have enough power for your home or business. A solar-panel system, for example, doesn’t generate electricity at night, when the sun is down. During that time, you’ll need the grid to supplement your renewable system. Being interconnected also allows you to export any excess energy you generate to the grid and earn generation credits that can be applied to your statement balance. This will offset your costs when you do need supplemental energy.

If you’re a renter or live in a home you don’t own, you may still be able to participate in renewable energy. Talk to your landlord about Virtual Net Metering (VNM).

No. While the majority of customers on the Solar Billing Plan will have adopted rooftop solar, the new plan also includes other renewable technologies such as wind.

Virtual Net Metering (VNM) is similar to Net Energy Metering (NEM), but VNM involves several customers sharing a single renewable energy system. This option is most applicable to properties with multiple tenants, such as apartment complexes and office buildings.

For example: If you are a tenant in a four-unit apartment building and your landlord installs a solar energy system with VNM, you would be allocated a percentage of that system’s output and — if that system generates more energy than your building needs — the same percentage of its generation credits. The building’s usage would be calculated through a single meter, but you’d still receive an individual bill.

NEM Aggregation is designed for customers with renewable systems on multi-metered properties. It allows you to “aggregate” your energy production and consumption into one balance so that you can offset your non-renewable energy use with your renewable energy surplus.

A good example is a small farm: If the farmhouse is equipped with solar panels that generate surplus energy — that is, more than the farmhouse needs — that surplus can be used to offset the energy costs incurred by a water pump used for irrigation on another area of the property.

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