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States With the Fast Residential Solar Permitting 

Updated: 3 days ago

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Solar permitting and interconnection are crucial for ensuring safety, compliance with regulations, and proper installation of solar systems. A streamlined permitting and inspection process allows quicker adoption of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, promoting access to clean energy sources. At GreenLancer, we have specialized in solar permitting and engineering services for over a decade. We conducted a study of the average residential solar permitting and interconnection times for solar energy projects under 10 kilowatts (kW) to determine the leaders in rapid solar energy adoption. 


Criteria for Evaluating the Solar Permit Application Process

We used several data points to analyze the solar permitting process across numerous states. Utilizing 2022 data from NREL's SolarTRACE platform, we analyzed the average solar permit application, pre-installation interconnection, inspection, and post-installation interconnection times.


Our study also considers which states have policies aimed at accelerating and improving the solar permitting process. This includes measures such as standardized application procedures, online submission systems, and efforts to reduce administrative burdens on solar installers. 


SolSmart Designations

Many cities and counties across the country have also earned SolSmart awards. This national designation program recognizes communities for making it faster, easier, and more affordable to install solar panels. Based on their solar-friendly policies and practices, the program awards communities with Gold, Silver, or Bronze designations in one of five categories: permitting and inspection, planning and zoning, government operations, community engagement, and market development to encourage local solar energy use.


SolarAPP+

Some communities have adopted  SolarAPP+, an online solar permitting platform designed to streamline and accelerate the approval process for residential solar energy installations. We used data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory website as of 9/30/2023.


States 

Our study includes the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia, which have some of the largest solar energy markets in the United States.


Median Solar Permitting, Interconnection, and Inspection Times in Days

State

AHJ Permit Time 

Pre-Install Interconnection Time

Inspection Time

Post-Install Interconnection Time

Average Total

New York

7

5

10

3

25

Nevada

0

0

8

19

27

California

6

0

18

4

28

Texas

9

4

9

7

29

Illinois

9

1

11

9

30

Arizona

9

7

7

11

34

Florida

9

0

14

11

34

Massachusetts

7

6

13

13

39

Georgia

8

11

8

18

45

Virginia

12

11

14

10

47

Ohio

17

10

11

9

47

New Jersey

15

7

21

8

51

Michigan

15

18

7

13

53

Colorado

8

10

16

20

54

North Carolina

9

8

24

18

59

Pennsylvania

16

23

12

13

64


Top States for the Quick Solar Panel Permits


These states have implemented streamlined procedures, standardized solar permit application forms, and expedited review timelines, facilitating rapid solar permit approvals. They prioritize efficiency and simplicity while ensuring compliance, reducing administrative burdens, and accelerating renewable energy adoption. The total time for obtaining a solar permit, including the permit inspection and interconnection process for these leading states ranges between 25 and 30 days.


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New York: Fast Solar Permit Process

New York tops the list for quick solar permitting for residential projects at an average of 25 days. The New York State Unified Solar Permit (NYS-USP) application aims to streamline the process for installing small-scale solar energy systems by utilizing a standardized solar permit process. This initiative, under the NY-Sun program, seeks to reduce the costs, complexity, and waiting times associated with installing solar panels on residential and commercial properties.


In addition, some cities are leading the way in simplifying the solar permit process, most notably New York City. New Rochelle, New York City, and Syracuse offer an online solar permit process, and Rochester offers same-day in-person solar permits. However, as of September 2023, no AHJs were using the SolarAPP+ program.


New York SolSmart Designations

Gold: Erie County, Orange County, New York City, and Suffolk County

Bronze: Brookhaven and Huntington


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Nevada: Quick Turnaround Times for Solar Permits

Although no authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) have adopted SolarAPP+ in Nevada, solar installers typically enjoy rapid solar permitting, especially in Las Vegas. However, the post-installation interconnection time averages 19 days, which is by far the most time-consuming step on average in Nevada.


Las Vegas offers online permitting services, instant online permitting, and same-day in-person permitting, and it does not require a structural review. Reno is a SolSmart Silver Awardee and offers online solar permitting.


SolSmart Designations

Gold: Las Vegas

Silver: Reno

Bronze: Clark County


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California: Innovator in Streamlining Solar Permits

California leads the nation in streamlined solar permitting efforts, revolutionizing the approval process for PV installations. Through initiatives like the Solar Permitting Efficiency Act (AB 2188), the state has standardized procedures, reduced administrative hurdles, and expedited reviews. These efforts not only promote the widespread adoption of solar energy but also serve as a model for other states striving to accelerate renewable energy deployment. 


In particular, California is a leader in adopting SolarAPP+, with numerous jurisdictions, including Fresno, San Francisco, and Stockton, piloting or fully adopting the solar permitting platform. Many of California’s largest cities have online solar permitting services. Plus, several cities, including Anaheim, Irvine, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Santa Ana, offer same-day in-person solar permitting. Unfortunately, a somewhat long average solar permit inspection time of 18 days can delay solar installations a bit.


California SolSmart Designations

Gold: Berkeley, Concord, Cupertino, Davis, Fremont, Huntington Beach, Oakland, Palm Springs, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Monica, Santa Rosa, Sanoma County, and Torrance

Silver: Hawthorne and San Leandro

Bronze: Costa County, Inyo County, Marin County, Redondo Beach, San Diego County, Santa Barbara County, and Yolo County


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Texas: Fast Solar Permitting & PV Interconnection 

Texas cities and counties generally have streamlined solar permitting application and inspection procedures to facilitate quicker installation of solar energy systems. This is particularly evident in larger cities like Austin and Houston, which have dedicated resources for renewable energy projects. Major utilities in Texas, such as Oncor and CenterPoint, have developed solar-friendly policies and dedicated teams to handle solar interconnections efficiently.


The City of Houston is piloting SolarAPP+ and is the only AHJ in Texas using the solar permitting system. All the major cities, including Arlington, Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio, offer online solar permitting, and Austin offers same-day in-person solar permitting. 


SolSmart Texas Designations

Gold: Austin and El Paso

Silver: San Antonio and Brownsville

Bronze: Plano


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Illinois: A Leader In Fast Solar Panel Permits

Illinois solar installers enjoy relatively short permitting and interconnection timelines as Texas and California, for photovoltaic (PV) projects of 10 kW or smaller. In addition, Illinois recently passed legislation intended to accelerate solar permitting of commercial solar projects. Public Act 102-1123, which standardizes local permitting for renewable energy facilities, including solar and wind energy projects. 


Online permitting is available in most of Illinois's largest cities, but no AHJs use the SolarAPP+ permitting platform. 


Illinois SolSmart Designations

Gold:  Aurora, Carol Stream, Chicago, Deerfield, Elgin, Evanston, Freeport, Lake County, Mount Prospect, Rockford, Skokie, Urbana, Waukegan, and Will County

Silver: Libertyville, Naperville, and Schaumburg, 

Bronze: Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, and Lake Forest


States with Moderate Solar Permitting Speeds

These states have made progress in streamlining solar permitting. often with standardizing guidelines, achieving fairly efficient approval times for solar panel permits. The total time to process solar permits, including interconnection and inspections for these states, is between 34 and 47 days.


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Arizona: Efficient Solar Permitting

Arizona stands out for its relatively efficient solar permit application systems, characterized by streamlined processes and expedited reviews. These initiatives not only simplify the application process for solar installations but also contribute to the state's reputation as a leader in renewable energy adoption. 


Part of Arizona’s solar permitting success is likely due to adopting or piloting SolarAPP+ in some areas, including Tucson, Phoenix, Pima County, and Oro Valley.


Arizona SolSmart Designations

  • Gold: Pima County

  • Silver: Oro Valley

  • Bronze: Maricopa County and Sedona


Florida: Excelling in Fast Residential Solar Permitting Approvals

Some Florida AHJs have made notable strides in improving the efficiency of their solar permitting processes, and solar installers enjoy quick solar permitting, especially for projects under 10 kW. Several local jurisdictions have implemented measures to simplify and expedite the solar permit approval process, but no Florida jurisdictions use SolarAPP+. 


SolSmart Florida Designations

  • Gold: Fort Lauderdale, Miami-Dade County, Orange County, Orlando, Palm Beach County, Pensacola, Pompano Beach, and West Palm Beach 

  • Silver: Alachua County, Boca Raton, and Lakeland  

  • Bronze: Tampa 


Massachusetts: Taking Strides to Simplify Solar Permitting

The state has implemented the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program, which includes provisions to simplify the permitting and interconnection process for solar projects. Massachusetts solar installers often experience a relatively smooth solar permitting process, but historical districts can present unique challenges, especially in older cities like Boston, Salem, and Cambridge. 


To date, no AHJs have started piloting or implementing the SolarAPP+ platform, but many cities, including Boston, Brockton, Cambridge, Fall River, Lynn, New Bedford, Quincy, and Worcester, offer online permitting. Boston and Lynn offer same-day in-person permitting, and most larger cities require structural reviews to obtain solar panel permits.


SolSmart Massachusetts Designations

  • Gold: Chelmsford, Lowell, and Somerville, 

  • Silver: Framingham and Gloucester

  • Bronze: Boston and Cambridge


Georgia: Average Turnaround for Solar Panel Permits

Georgia's AHJs are relatively efficient at processing PV permits, thanks partly to clear solar permit guidelines. With streamlined procedures, solar projects often receive prompt consideration, reflecting Georgia's commitment to renewable energy and facilitating the adoption of solar technology across the state.  However, post-installation solar interconnection times average 18 days, delaying the process. 


Atlanta, Columbus, and Savannah offer an online solar permit application. However, no jurisdictions in Georgia are using SolarAPP+.


SolSmart Georgia Designations

  • Gold: Atlanta

  • Silver: Doraville and Putnam County

  • Bronze: Athens-Clarke County, DeKalb County, and Savannah


Virginia: State Mean Solar Permit Cycle Times Exceeding 100 Days  

The time it takes to get a solar permit in Virginia can vary depending on the specific locality and the complexity of the PV project. However, many Virginia AHJs have taken steps to streamline the solar permitting process, which accelerates solar energy adoption.


Many of Virginia’s largest cities, including Alexandria, Chesapeake, Richmond, Roanoke, and Virginia Beach, offer online permitting, and Arlington offers same-day, in-person solar permitting. In addition, Culpeper County and Harrisonburg, Virginia, are trying out SolarAPP+.


Virginia SolSmart Designations

  • Gold: Alexandria, Fairfax County, Norfolk, and Richmond

  • Silver: Charlottesville, Harrisonville, and Loudoun County 

  • Bronze: Albemarle County, Arlington County, James City County, Newport News, Roanoke, and Tazewell County


Ohio: Sluggish Solar Permit Processes

The Ohio solar energy market has seen remarkable growth in utility-scale solar, positioning it as a rising star among the states. After a record-shattering year, it climbed to fifth place for installed solar power capacity. Despite this achievement, the residential and commercial solar energy markets in Ohio are relatively small, and residential solar permitting takes 47 days on average.


Yet, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, OKI Regional Council of Governments, and certain cities, including Columbus, have made efforts to improve solar permitting. Unfortunately, some major cities in Ohio don't offer online or same-day in-person permitting services or none use the SolarAPP+ permitting platform.  


SolSmart Designations

  • Gold: Columbus, Cuyahoga County, and Lancaster

  • Silver: Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and OKI Regional Council of Governments

  • Bronze: Cleveland


States with Slow Solar Permitting & Interconnection Processes

Projects in these states took longer to get solar panel permits than in the others. But, some jurisdictions have taken strides to streamline the solar permitting process.

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New Jersey: Slow Solar Permitting Processes

Although the Solar Energy Industries Association ranks New Jersey 9th in the country for installed solar energy capacity and has a large residential solar market, solar permitting cycle times average 51 days, which is double the average of New York. In particular, AHJ permitting and inspection times are both pretty high. 


Of the major cities and counties, only Camden County has SolSmart designation, and neither in-person same-day permitting nor online solar permitting is available across much of the state. Plus, no New Jersey jurisdictions are using the SolarAPP+ platform.


New Jersey SolSmart Designations

  • Bronze: Camden County


Michigan: Moderate Solar Permitting & Interconnection Speed

The solar permit application process, including AHJ permit and PV interconnection times, is often relatively slow in Michigan, but the solar inspection process is often relatively quick. Local jurisdictions often vary in their approach and requirements, with some implementing streamlined procedures to expedite solar permit approvals while others don’t.


Although Michigan solar system permitting can be relatively slow, some cities, including East Lansing, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Detroit, now offer online solar permitting. However, no jurisdictions in Michigan have adopted SolarAPP+.


SolSmart Designations

Gold: East Lansing

Silver: Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Lansing


Colorado: A Slow Solar Permitting & Interconnection Process

The state gets over 9% of its electricity from solar power and has robust utility-scale and residential solar energy markets. However, residential solar permitting can be a time-consuming process, especially for post-installation interconnection, yet there are also some noteworthy achievements. A Colorado law limits the cost of solar permits to $500 for residential PV projects and $1,000 for commercial solar installations. In addition, many Colorado cities and counties are making efforts to improve solar permitting.


Numerous major cities in Colorado offer online solar permitting, including Arvada, Aurora, Boulder, Centennial, Colorado Springs, Denver, Fort Collins, Lakewood, Thornton, and Westminster. Also, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver, and Lakewood offer same-day in-person permitting, and Denver and Madera use the SolarAPP+ permitting system. 


SolSmart Designations

  • Gold: Adams County, Boulder County, Clear Creek, Denver, Fort Collins, Garfield County, Jefferson County, Westminster

  • Silver: Boulder County

  • Bronze: Aurora, Lakewood, Pueblo County, Routt County, San Miguel County, and Summit County


North Carolina: Slow Solar Permitting & Interconnection Approvals

This Tar Heel State ranks fourth in the nation for installed solar energy capacity and has robust utility-scale and residential solar energy markets. However, the solar permit approval process can take a long time, often lasting around 2 months. In particular, solar inspections take an average of 24 days to complete, coupled with 18 days for post-installation interconnection. 


Yet many cities are making strides to simplify solar panel permits. Durham, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem offer online solar permitting services, and Raleigh offers same-day in-person permitting. As of September 2023, no jurisdictions were using the SoalrAPP+ platform.


SolSmart Designations

Gold: Asheville, Cary, Chatham County, and Durham City

Silver: Raleigh

Bronze: Greensboro


Pennsylvania: A Sluggish Solar Permit Approval Process 

Solar PV permitting processes can vary significantly from one municipality to another in Pennsylvania. Some local jurisdictions have implemented streamlined processes and standardized forms to facilitate solar installations, whereas others may have more complicated systems and longer approval times. In particular, an average of a 23-day pre-installation interconnection process can slow down the process.


Philadelphia offers online solar permitting, no Pennsylvania AHJs have adopted the SolarAPP+ platform to streamline the solar permitting application process.


SolSmart Pennsylvania Designations

Gold: Chester County and Philadelphia

Silver: Montgomery County and Upper Darby Township

Bronze: Bucks County, Haverford Township, and Lower Merion


Accelerating the Solar Permit Approval Process

Solar installers can speed up the solar permit process by meeting all local and state permit requirements and ensuring all information provided is complete and accurate. Submitting a comprehensive solar permit application that includes detailed solar plan sets and equipment specifications is crucial. 


Also, ensuring that the installation adheres to electrical and building code requirements and complies with local zoning regulations will help avoid delays. By following these steps, installers can streamline the permitting process and minimize the chances of encountering obstacles or needing to resubmit applications.


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GreenLancer is the only online marketplace for solar installers to get standardized, quality PV permit design and solar engineering services with speed, scale, and reliability. Our platform allows batch project management, in-app communication, and a team of support specialists to help solar businesses save time and money.



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