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The approval process for a solar energy project involves several basic steps. First, a permit application is submitted for review by a local permitting agency, known as the "enforcing agency". Typically, the contractor installing the solar energy system will submit the permit on behalf of the building owner. Once the permit application is approved, the applicant has permission to build the solar installation. When the system is installed, the enforcing agency inspects it to ensure compliance with applicable building codes and local ordinances.

Along with applying for a permit, the contractor will contact the local utility provider to request permission to connect the solar installation to the local distribution grid. The solar PV system cannot be "turned on" until approval is granted by both the local agency and the local utility.

Well-informed solar installers and knowledgeable, well-trained local agency staff are critical to achieve an efficient permit approval process. Effective training is one of the most important steps that local governments and the solar industry can take to ensure efficient permitting.