The impact of SolarAPP+ streamlined solar permitting one year later


As we’ve noted a bunch, upfront costs and, in many cases, bureaucratic gridlock are slowing down our transition to renewable energy. Modernizing our grid and world must include the modernization of government technology and processes that often bog down solar energy project timelines.

One year ago this month, a solution emerged to accelerate local solar permitting — SolarAPP+ — via cloud-based technology Accela in partnership with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).

At the one-year anniversary of SolarAPP+, let’s take a look at the impact.

5,000 permits and counting

As of March 2022, 13 communities have adopted or are piloting SolarAPP+ – including many Accela customers like Pima County, AZ; Tucson, AZ; Menifee, CA; and Sonoma County, CA. In one year, approximately 5,000 permits and more than 31,300 kilowatts of energy have been approved thanks to the new app.

solarapp chart

The city of Tucson, Arizona alone approved 14,601 kilowatts and saved an estimated 2,176 hours in review time since launching SolarAPP+. As permitting adds on average $2,000 per residential installation, the people of Tucson are saving hundreds of dollars with each new permit now through SolarAPP+.

With the solution, communities can adopt solar faster, reallocate funds to pressing community needs, simplify processing, and tangibly move toward local climate goals,” notes Amber D’Ottavio, Accela Vice President Of Product Management.

“Pima County and the City of Tucson, Arizona believe that all cities, states, counties, and localities must act in the fight against climate change, for healthier futures for all their residents. We use SolarAPP+ as an immediate, affordable, necessary step toward changing our current systems to usher in a greener future,” said Pima County Director of Development Services Carla Blackwell.

API updates

Additionally, Accela recently developed a new API for SolarAPP+ that fully integrates the process, giving installers confidence in auto-approvals and further reducing time per permit.

“The Accela API – part of our Construct API and soon to be in combination with a new API developed by NRE – integrates SolarAPP+ directly with Accela Citizen Access (ACA),” explains D’Ottavio. “Solar panel installers simply input plans into SolarAPP+, then are automatically redirected to ACA with an auto-filled permit for an auto-approval to start the project.”

Before the API integration, installers would submit designs to receive automated plan review and approval through SolarApp+ and then upload the information provided by SolarApp+ into their permit application in ACA. This new tight integration makes auto-approvals for solar permitting seamless and intuitive from start to finish, with no room for error. This update significantly reduces time and money spent by an installer to apply for a solar rooftop permit

What’s next?

  • California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) is sponsoring legislation to require instant, online solar permitting. Senator Wiener included SolarAPP+ as a key component in this effort.
  • Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm also called on mayors across the United States to adopt SolarAPP+ to make going green easier, and encouraged more than 125 U.S. communities to sign-up to learn more about SolarAPP+.

Listen to more in-depth conversations on Solar Builder's YouTube channel

Our most popular series include:

Power Forward! | A collaboration with BayWa r.e. to discuss higher level industry topics.
The Buzz | Where we give our 2 cents per kWh on the residential solar market.
The Pitch | Discussions with solar manufacturers about their new technology and ideas.

Comments are closed here.