May 31, 2023
UL Solutions is pleased to announce that SolarAPP+, an automated permitting solution, has reached a milestone of more than 20,000 permits issued, with 46 communities participating as of May 8, 2023. This marks significant adoption for SolarAPP+ in 2023, as the company reported around 10,000 issued permits and 27 participating communities in January. Additionally, an extensive cross-check of the model codes supporting SolarAPP+ residential rooftop photovoltaic (PV) system permits is complete.
Short for Solar Automated Permit Processing Plus, SolarAPP+ is an automated permitting solution for residential rooftop solar energy system installations in the United States (U.S.). It was developed collaboratively by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and UL Solutions, code authorities, municipalities and the solar industry.
Streamlining solar energy adoption with SolarAPP+
SolarAPP+ is designed to accelerate residential rooftop solar energy system adoption by making it easier for local governments to approve standardized projects quickly and safely. The online software platform automates the plan review and process for issuing permits to licensed electrical contractors or qualified businesses to install code-compliant residential PV systems.
As states and municipalities increase goals around renewable energy, automating permit and inspection processes can help quicken the adoption of residential solar power use. Additionally, it can reduce staff time and expenses related to these tasks, according to Mike Kruger, CEO of the Colorado Solar and Storage Association (COSSA).
For example, Colorado aims to source 80% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. The Colorado Senate approved HB-1234 in early May. This bill creates the Streamlined Solar Permitting and Inspection Grant Program to help support solar energy adoption.
In 2022, California passed SB-379 Solar Access Act requiring cities and counties of certain population sizes, as outlined in the bill, to adopt automated permitting software by September 2024. This bill is expected to reduce the cost of residential solar systems, leading to increased solar adoption.
“This is an important step in advancing renewable energy use,” said Ken Boyce, senior director of Principal Engineering in the Testing, Inspection and Certification group at UL Solutions. “By expediting permitting on residential solar projects while maintaining a focus on compliance with model installation codes and safety standards, SolarAPP+ can truly help enable safer clean energy use.”
UL Solutions and SolarAPP+
UL Solutions engineers, ICC/IAEI Certified inspectors and ICC/IAEI Certified plan examiners conduct technical reviews and audits of a percentage of permits issued by SolarAPP+ for accuracy and completeness. UL Solutions engineers and staff who are former code authorities applied their expertise in standards development and real-world building and electrical plan review experience to analyze the permitting data. They scrutinize the permits and provide direct feedback to enhance the software in technical completeness, accuracy, safety and efficiency.
Once the permit is issued and the use of certified (listed) electric equipment is confirmed, installers and code authorities can proceed with the knowledge that electrical equipment was investigated regarding risks to life and property. They can feel confident that it was checked for conformity to the installation and use in compliance with the National Electrical Code® (NEC) provisions. UL Solutions staff is actively involved in the code-making process of the model codes such as ICC, NFPA, ASCE and other code-writing entities and applies discoveries as appropriate.
Throughout the development of SolarAPP+ and the audit processes, UL Solutions has conducted over 100 technical demonstrations for jurisdictions/municipalities that may adopt the SolarAPP+ software. These presentations allow the stakeholders to see the software in action, ask questions, and feel at ease about adopting this time-saving permitting methodology.
Technical reviews and audits are underway for projects that include PV+Storage (energy storage systems, also known as ESS). This endeavor expands the usefulness of the software by incorporating ESS into the fast-track permitting model. A technical review and audit process will continue to assess the permits for accuracy and completeness.
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