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The SolarAPP: The Emerging US Permitting Solution

With clean energy goals at its core, SolarAPP is a rooftop solar and storage review plan software to support effective approvals of safe and compliant systems.

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December 4, 2020

Cities and states are aggressively pursuing clean energy goals and homeowners are increasingly installing rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) installations. The U.S. Department of Energy is continuing to focus on reducing “soft costs” of solar energy technologies that constitute an increasing percentage of installation costs as equipment costs continue to decline. Cities and counties are facing continued and unpredictable challenges in meeting demands including efficient permitting. Amidst all of these interrelated trends, can technology help support efficient permitting of safe and compliant installations? 

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has been leading a coalition of organizations and subject matter experts to meet this challenge. The coalition is developing the Solar Automated Permit Processing Platform Plus or SolarAPP, an online instant permitting portal for eligible rooftop residential solar and storage projects. When permitting is simplified, homeowners are happier and adoption rates go up. In turn, local governments benefit from greater resilience, flexibility, efficiency and economic development.  

The SolarAPP coalition - including local governments, code development bodies, industry experts and UL - have been using a rigorous and collaborative process to build SolarAPP and its automated rooftop solar and storage plan review software.   

The intelligent features of SolarAPP prevent design errors, proactively identify noncompliances, and standardize permit application materials, ensuring the no-touch submission and approval of complete and code-compliant projects. The software documents critical features and support effective approvals of safe, compliant systems. SolarAPP will be complimentary for local jurisdictions, while contractor submittal fees will cover operation and maintenance costs. SolarAPP+ is designed to function as either a standalone program or integrated with existing government software platforms.  

“The digital revolution is here! Importantly, every local government now has the opportunity to adopt SolarAPP+ and provide no-touch, instant solar permitting at this critical time during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said NREL’s Dr. Jeffrey Cook, the SolarAPP+ campaign leader. The SolarAPP hit a critical milestone when for first instant solar permit was issued for Pleasant Hill, California, in early November 2020. Moving forward, there are plans for SolarAPP to address new applications, including residential energy storage - making it easier to keep pace with evolving technology, standards and codes. 

UL is excited to be a partner in the development of the SolarAPP that helps code authorities in their critical mission, supports safe energy infrastructure and advances adoption of sustainable energy technologies for our planet and its people. We encourage exploration of the SolarAPP+ to see if adoption can help your jurisdiction, and welcome questions or feedback from the regulatory community. Please check out SolarAPP at https://solarapp.nrel.gov/ or contact them directly at [email protected].  

SolarAPP

Safe and affordable home solar through permitting automation.

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