- DOE has launched Summer of Solar to encourage local governments to adopt SolarAPP+ as a tool to reduce permitting process for residential solar installations
- It would encourage wider deployment of solar in the country by cutting red tape and making solar power cheaper and easier to access by homeowners
- NREL developed this tool with industry stakeholders and has signed a MoU with UL to manage and deploy the software by 2030
To fast-track residential solar installation permits, the Department of Energy (DOE) of the US government has launched Solar Automated Permit Processing Plus (SolarAPP+) tool, which it believes will cut red tape and make solar power cheaper and easier for homeowners. It will also encourage wider deployment of residential solar in the country.
What this SolarAPP+ does is provide solar contractors with a standardized, automated permitting process for residential installations, which reviews solar project applications for building code compliance. It would ‘drastically’ reduce barriers to solar deployment, bringing down approval rates from weeks and months, since areas with lengthy approval rates discourage installers from working here.
Pilot deployment of the SolarAPP+ platform in 4 communities in Arizona and California have shown great results, it added, for instance in Tucson, Arizona the permitting reviews brought down time from close to 20 business days to zero. In comparison, across the country, 25% of the projects take more than 2 weeks for permitting process, while 5% take more than a month.
The tool has been prepared by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in collaboration with building safety officials and solar industry leaders. It has also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with UL to manage and deploy the software by 2023.
In May 2021, NREL said it had prepared the SolarAPP+ platform with Accela as an instant online solar permitting platform for code compliant residential solar energy and battery projects that they said will bring down permitting timeline from an average of 2 weeks to instantaneous (see North America PV Snippets: WEC, GP, NREL, West Virginia).
To publicize this app and get commitments from 125 local governments to sign up for the SolarAPP+ by the end of September 2021, the DOE has also launched Summer of Solar campaign.
SolarAPP+ is part of the DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office’s (SETO) soft costs research that encompasses design, siting, permitting, installation, interconnection and financing. Soft costs for residential solar have come down by approximately 50% since 2010 according to the NREL, and now the country wants to bring these down further by 60% to 70%. The US government is seriously investing in solar PV technology research as it aims to cut cost of solar energy by 60% by 2030 to $0.02 per kWh for utility scale PV, and for residential PV it aims to bring it down to $0.05 per kWh (see US Aims To Cut Solar Energy Costs By 60% By 2030).
“As solar hardware costs continue to decline, lowering soft costs becomes an even more important part of lowering the total cost of a solar energy system,” believes SETO.