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SolarAPP+ Automated Permitting System

Updated: 4 days ago

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Solar permitting is a critical step in a successful solar energy project. Snags in the permitting process can delay solar project timelines, increase costs, and create dissatisfied customers. Major issues in the solar permit process can hinder an installer’s relationship with local authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), make a project unprofitable, or even hurt a solar contractor’s reputation.

However, most jurisdictions across the U.S. have unique permitting processes and requirements. It often takes weeks to get a permit, but in some cases, it can take far longer, especially if the project doesn’t comply with permit requirements.

Solar Automated Permit Processing (Solar APP+), also known as Solar App Plus, was developed to help reduce costs and save time for both solar installation companies and AHJs, while ideally passing these savings on to consumers. Although the cost of photovoltaic (PV) panels has decreased significantly in recent years, many soft costs, like solar permitting and interconnection, have not. So, let’s examine SolarAPP+ and how it can benefit your company by streamlining the permitting process.

What Is SolarAPP+?

SolarAPP+ is a new web-based permitting platform created to streamline and automate the solar plan review and permit process. It is currently fully active for single-family rooftop solar systems on existing homes in certain jurisdictions, and other AHJs are piloting SolarAPP+.

This automated permitting system web portal helps qualified companies and individuals ensure that proposed solar systems are safe and code-compliant and instantly issues solar permits. Then, the AHJ verifies quality work and adherence to the approved design during the inspection.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy funded the development of Solar APP+ through an award to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). It was created with significant input from various solar industry and government stakeholders.

“We are very proud of the impacts SolarAPP+ has had,” said Jeff Cook, SolarAPP+ Program Lead at NREL. “The rapid adoption by local governments across the country proves that safe, automated permitting is not only possible, but delivers immense benefits to local governments, homeowners,  and contractors. We encourage all communities to consider piloting SolarAPP+ to see what it can do for you.” 

Where is SolarAPP+ In Use?

The Solar APP+ permitting software is available to city and county permitting departments at no cost and is designed to help AHJs and solar companies alike. Over 160 communities across 10 states have adopted SolarAPP+, benefiting from its efficiency and ease of issuing permits for residential solar PV systems. Currently, it is only in use by some jurisdictions in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin, but some additional local governments are piloting it.

SolarAPP+ can process permits for single-family residential rooftop solar PV and building integrated PV projects either with or without battery storage systems on existing homes. Therefore, this solar permit software cannot currently process permits for multi-family, ground-mount, new construction, community solar, or utility-scale solar projects.

However, the automated permitting system software will continue to develop and incorporate more system types. In the meantime, work with AHJs directly to submit permits outside the portal for projects not included in the SolarAPP+ platform.

What are the Benefits of SolarAPP+?

SolarAPP+ offers significant benefits for local governments, homeowners, and contractors. Standardizing and automating the solar permitting process saves time and reduces the workload for government staff. It eliminates the need for paper solar plan sets and documents, making the solar permitting process digital.

This automated permitting system has already approved thousands of PV projects, saving over 33,000 hours of solar permitting staff time. SolarAPP+ is designed to accelerate the transition to clean energy, improve safety, and shorten the cycle time for solar projects. By reducing solar permitting delays and costs, SolarAPP+ facilitates faster adoption of solar energy.

“SolarAPP+ is saving our customers time and money, reducing our staff workload, and helping San Francisco with our goal of transitioning to 100% renewable electricity by 2025 and 100% renewable energy by 2040,” said San Francisco Department of Building Inspection Director Patrick O’Riordan. “It has also been another step in our ongoing efforts to modernize our operations and make our permitting processes easier and more customer friendly.”

How Does SolarAPP Work?

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Solar contractors can use the platform for instant permitting from local AHJs in jurisdictions using the software. First, it is critical to have an active profile before submitting permit requests. This is a three-step process that is done online, and it can take up to 48 hours to verify the required information. Solar contractors are unable to use the platform to process permit applications for residential solar systems until all the required information and requirements are submitted and approved.

To get started using SolarAPP+

  1. Register on the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) website and create a username and password. You must enter basic information, such as your name and contact information. Also, you must submit any required licenses, such as the state’s contractor license and required city or county business licenses for every jurisdiction where you operate.

  2. Take approximately an hour-long online training course on submitting rooftop solar designs through the SolarAPP+ program to receive a certificate. If you want to submit designs with energy storage systems, you must also take the training for using SolarAPP+ for Solar and Storage Projects.

  3. Send the training certificate(s) to NREL so they can enable your account to submit projects in any jurisdictions where you are licensed.

Once you have an active profile on SolarAPP+ platform

  1. Submit permit applications through the portal for residential projects in jurisdictions using the platform and pay a small administrative fee. The software will automatically run a compliance check of the system design.

  2. If the project passes the compliance check, SolarAPP+ will generate an approval document and inspection checklist. It is also possible to modify the solar designs after approval before the solar installation using the platform, resulting in a new approval document and revised inspection checklist.

  3. Adherence to the project design and quality work is confirmed during the inspection process.

GreenLancer specializes in solar permitting, design, and engineering. If you need assistance with solar permits, including Solar App+ applications, create an account.

Key Benefits Of SolarAPP For Automated Permitting

SolarAPP+ was designed to help advance the solar energy industry by saving time and reducing costs while maintaining safety. Permit requirements and the process often vary between AHJs, but the platform makes it easier for solar contractors to navigate these requirements.

Jurisdictions can get backlogged with permit requests as they review codes for compliance, which could worsen as solar installations increase if the permitting process isn’t standardized and streamlined. However, expedited permitting can reduce wait times for customers and could increase solar energy adoption while saving time for AHJs.

Solar Panel Permitting Will Continue To Advance With SolarAPP+

The U.S. Department of Energy announced a goal in 2021 to reduce the cost of solar energy by 60% in the next decade. This will require reducing some of the soft costs associated with solar installations and help boost solar energy deployment. Streamlining the permitting process is critical for solar contractors and AHJs alike.

Solar APP+ is now available for use by jurisdiction for rooftop residential solar installations on existing homes. The capabilities of the portal will increase to incorporate more types of projects over time, saving time and money in the process.

Want to streamline your solar energy projects? GreenLancer and SolarAPP+ can help advance your next project.


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