DOE Goes to Work on Standardizing and Automating Solar Permitting Process

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has launched development of the Solar Automated Permit Processing Plus (SolarAPP+) tool: a free, web-based platform that gives local governments the ability to expedite their review and approval of residential solar installation permits.

Delays in obtaining rooftop solar installations permits have been responsible for heavy costs incurred by solar customers, contractors, and local governments. The solar permitting processes vary widely across the country, with some customers waiting weeks to months to get approval, and solar installers tend to avoid working in areas with difficult permit processes.

The DOE says SolarAPP+ solves this problem by providing solar contractors nationwide with a standardized, automated permitting process for residential installations. SolarAPP+ reviews solar project applications for building code compliance and instantly approves permits that meet the right specifications – making it easier and faster for local governments to process and issue permits.

Local governments that fast-track permits, with programs similar to SolarAPP+, have been shown to increase residential solar installations by 600%.

“We are fast-tracking America’s clean energy future by cutting red tape to make it cheaper and easier for homeowners to access power from the sun,” says Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “SolarAPP+ will bust through bureaucracy to speed up permitting, helping homeowners more quickly add solar panels on their roofs, adding gigawatts of clean electricity to the nations grid, while creating good paying jobs.”

The SolarAPP+ pilot program began in four communities throughout Arizona and California in the last year. Since then, all four communities have launched SolarAPP+ with positive results. In Tucson, for example, SolarAPP+ reduced permitting reviews from approximately 20 business days to zero.

SolarAPP+ automatically conducts code compliance checks to ensure safety and generates a standardized inspection checklist for installers and inspectors to use to verify compliance in the field. The tool’s compliance reviews are based on the international model codes that nearly half of the country’s permitting authorities use, including the 2017 National Electrical Code, so that applications are compliant from the start. 

NREL developed SolarAPP+ in collaboration with solar organizations, building safety officials, the International Code Council, the International Association of Electrical Inspectors, and UL.

NREL has signed a memorandum of understanding with UL to manage and deploy the software by 2023. The DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office is funding the development of the tool.

More details about SolarAPP+ can be found here.

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