Heritage overlays and solar panels

Yarra Council supports the installation and use of solar power, but sometimes there are heritage and environmental factors that must be considered.

Download Heritage overlay and solar panels (PDF, 528KB)

I’m in a Heritage Overlay. Do I need a permit to install solar panels?

If your property is located in a Heritage Overlay and the solar panels will be visible from the street (other than a lane) or public park, you'll need to apply for a planning permit using the VicSmart application process

If your solar panels won’t be visible from the street you don’t need a planning permit, even if your property is located in a Heritage Overlay.

You do not need to pay a fee to Council for a planning application to install solar panels on your property.

What do I need to include with my application?

Your application must include: 

1. Proposed site plan 

This is a drawing that shows where you want to install solar panel(s) on your property. It must be drawn to scale and include the following:

  • The shape and size of your property (ie. length and width) as shown on your Certificate of Title.
  • On your property label: 
    • The proposed location of the solar panels  
    • Dimensions for of the solar panels 
    • The distance of the solar panels from the title boundaries 
    • Whether the solar panels will be flush to the roof or at an angle 
    • An arrow showing which direction is north 

Diagram of a proposed site plan for heritage overlays and solar panels

2. Proposed elevations

This is a drawing that clearly shows how your dwelling will look with the solar panels from a side-on view. This is sometimes called the proposed streetscape elevation. It shows how your solar panels will appear from the street and how they will look in the streetscape, as well as from the sides. 

The Proposed Elevation must be drawn to scale and include all of the following:  

  • The orientation of the Proposed Elevation (for example, north elevation, south elevation etc)
  • On your property, label: 
    • The location of the solar panels  
    • Dimensions of the solar panels 
    • The distance of the solar panels above the natural ground level 
    • Whether the solar panels will be flush to the roof or at an angle 

A diagram showing the proposed elevation plan for heritage overlays and solar panels

3. Colours, materials, finishes and other specifications

Details of the colours, materials, finishes and other specifications of your solar panels, including how the solar panels will be fixed to the roof, will help Council to assess how the solar panels(s) will look on your property and in the streetscape. 

You can provide this information in one of the following ways: 

  • On the Proposed Elevation in the form of notations
  • On a separate sheet called a Materials Schedule 
  • Material samples and/or product brochures

4. Photographs 

Photographs help Council to understand the existing conditions of your property and give some context for the surrounding area.

You should submit existing photographs of the property as seen from the street and they must include oblique views of the roof, i.e. on an angle where you can see the front and the side of the building in the one photo.

Where should I locate solar panels on my property?

You should aim to conceal your solar panels from the street view:

  • Locate panels at the rear of historic dwellings, concealed from the street and neighbouring sites.
  • Install panels on garages, sheds or pergolas.
  • Install panels on hidden sections of your roof or on areas that are set back from the street

Heritage and environmentally sustainable design guidelines

The objectives are:

  • To ensure that the location and installation of services and equipment does not detract from the significance of the heritage place or damage the heritage fabric
  • To conceal solar panels, rainwater tanks, hot water systems, air conditioning units and other similar mechanical equipment, from street view, or, where this is not possible, sensitively locate and install them 

The following diagrams illustrate where to locate, and where not to locate your solar panels:

Guideline A: Do

  • Locate panels at the rear of an historic home, concealed from the streets and neighbouring sites

Diagram showing Guideline A - what to do - for adding solar panels to heritage buildings

Guidenline A: Do not

  • Locate panels in a highly visible location that will distract or disrupt the roof form
  • Install panels on frames that are at odd angles with the roof unless the panels are concealed by a parapet

Diagram showing Guideline A - what not to do - for adding solar panels to heritage buildings

Guideline B: Do

  • Install panels on an outbuilding such as a garage, carport, shed or contemporary addition, where the building can not be seen from the street front
  • Other options include pergolas and ground mounted frames

Diagram showing Guideline B - what to do - for adding solar panels to heritage buildings

Guideline C: Do

  • Install panels on concealed planes such as internal valleys or skillion roof at rear

Diagram showing Guideline C - what to do - for adding solar panels to heritage buildings

Guideline D: Do

  • Install split solar hot water systems that allow for alternative tank locations other than the main roof

Diagram showing Guideline D - what to do - for adding solar panels to heritage buildings

Guideline E: Do

  • Install solar arrays on side elevations only if they're minimal in size and number, and have been set back from the front of the building at least the depth of one room

Diagram showing Guideline E - what to do - for adding solar panels to heritage buildings

Orientation of solar panels on my property

To achieve maximum benefits, solar panels do not have to face north. They can sit at a variety of angles and directions and still achieve high levels of solar energy generation.

As a guide, the table below demonstrates the efficiency of solar panels at several different angles and orientations. 

A table showing the efficiency of solar panels at several different angles and orientations.