DOE officially rolls out online solar permitting tool for local governments


The United States Department of Energy announced today the official launch of SolarAPP+, the online permitting platform developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to accelerate approval of solar projects. The SolarAPP+ platform will cut the time and expense of going solar in the United States: national data shows that local governments that use instant online permitting for rooftop solar projects can process 5–14 times more applications than jurisdictions with traditional permit processing. Here’s our most recent feature on how it was developed and how it works.

Speed means a lot here. Solar customers will save money, while solar installers will have more clarity about the process, get more projects done, and contribute more to their local economies. SolarAPP+ also helps local government officials who will be able to rely on quality assurance processes built into the online application tool with input from code and safety experts at organizations like Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the International Code Council (ICC), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). 

Now, jurisdictions need to adopt it.

“By adopting SolarAPP+, cities can ramp up more solar in their communities, while improving the quality and safety of their permitting process. It will lead to more happy solar customers, less pollution, more jobs, and more local economic benefits,” said Andrew Birch and Anne Hoskins, Co-Chairs of the SolarAPP+ Campaign. “We’re excited to work with local officials and other stakeholders to advance this important new national standard and to advance the benefits of this new tool.” 

To that end, a national group of solar companies, state solar energy associations, clean energy advocates, and environmental organizations in launching The SolarAPP+ Campaign to raise awareness and promote adoption of the platform. The SolarAPP+ Campaign supports state solar associations with a goal of getting more than 100 jurisdictions to adopt the new national standard by Summer 2022.  

NYSEIA was one of the first to jump on this. The NYSEIA SolarAPP+ campaign, for example, takes a multi-prong approach to improving rooftop solar permitting in New York:

  • Adoption of SolarAPP+ in key Long Island jurisdictions that currently have a backlog in solar permits;
  • Adoption of “no-touch” permitting practices, including online and email application submissions, online and phone-based payment, and acceptance of electronic signatures;
  • Granting of conditional building permits; and
  • Allowing self-certification.

“Reducing administrative burdens for solar companies and their customers would expedite the process of installing solar and therefore reduce costs,” said Tara McDermott, Director of Stakeholder Relations at EmPower Solar and Chairperson of NYSEIA’s Long Island Solar & Storage Alliance. “A typical solar company on Long Island can spend a minimum of 10 staff-hours on permitting for each solar project, often waiting weeks for approval from some municipalities. By automating, standardizing, and digitizing the process, SolarAPP+ has the potential to save solar companies hundreds of hours each year completing paperwork, verifying code compliance, driving from town to town to file permits, disputing objections from building departments, resubmitting, picking up approved plans, and ultimately, finalizing a client’s building permit.”

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