NREL Solar Permitting Tool Speeds Up Residential Solar Projects


Since its launch in July, the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+) tool has processed over 2,800 residential solar permits for more than 20 MW of residential solar across 12 jurisdictions. In addition, nearly 200 other jurisdictions are interested in the tool. The free, web-based tool – developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy – instantly reviews solar permits, saving time, money and frustration for homeowners going solar.

This summer, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm challenged 125 local jurisdictions to start the process of evaluating SolarAPP+ for their communities.

“We are fast-tracking America’s clean energy future by cutting red tape to make it cheaper and easier for homeowners to access power from the sun,” says Secretary Granholm. “SolarAPP+ will bust through bureaucracy to speed up permitting, helping homeowners more quickly add solar panels on their roofs and adding gigawatts of clean electricity to the nation’s grid while creating good-paying jobs.”

In partnership with the SolarAPP+ Coalition, new goals are on the horizon. By March 31, 2022, SolarAPP+ aims to be engaged with 300 jurisdictions. By 2023, the goal is to reach 600 jurisdictions.

SolarAPP+ will also be expanding to support more types of home energy systems. Nine communities are piloting SolarAPP+ permitting for energy storage systems, with more than 215 permits processed so far. The SolarAPP+ team is also in the early stages of piloting permitting for building-integrated photovoltaic systems. As SolarAPP+ continues to grow, keep up by viewing the SolarAPP+ Product Roadmap.

In normal circumstances, customers might wait for months to get their permits approved. With SolarAPP+, permit approval takes less than a day. The current permitting process for residential solar installation varies widely across the country, and the sheer volume of permits can cause backlogs.

With all the permits processed thus far, jurisdictions have saved an estimated 15 minutes to one hour of review time per application, and customers have saved an estimated 12 business days from the time of project submission to the jurisdiction’s final inspection.

“We were the first to adopt SolarAPP+ and issue a permit through SolarAPP+,” says Sue Noack, mayor of Pleasant Hill, Calif. “With all the solar installations we’ve done, there have been no issues.”

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John Knueppel
John Knueppel
2 years ago

We run into issues with instantaneous online permit approval. Overall, I think it is a win for the industry, but benefit is somewhat overstated since review isn’t eliminated as inspectors are now being charged with some of the plan review responsibilities in the field. Sometimes, inspectors aren’t as knowledgeable of code requirements as plan checkers. This can be a huge problem if we have a set of approved plans, the project gets built to plan and then the inspector disapproves of the installation. Usually, solving is a matter of getting field inspectors up to speed on nuance of ever-changing solar… Read more »