Cumbersome, time-consuming, and costly solar permitting has been a major block to greater rooftop solar power adoption for decades. Even as solar panel costs came down and solar permitting was streamlined in other countries, the USA lagged behind in one of the most fundamental portions of the “going solar” process. Then it arrived (a bit late) to the “there’s an app for that” party. Just before the launch of SolarAPP+, I interviewed Amber D’Ottavio, Vice President of Product Management at Accela, who was one of the core people launching the app in 2021 and shepherding it through to where it is today. I still recommend that interview for a deep dive into the matter, as well as a more recent one Jo Borras conducted with her for an update. See here (my interview first, Jo’s second):
The news today, as the headline shows, is that more than 10,000 solar permits have now been processed through SolarAPP+ (10,270 as of the latest update from UL Solutions), and 27 communities are now using it. In total, 59,350 kilowatts (or 59.35 megawatts) of rooftop solar power have been unleashed through SolarAPP+. And the adoption rate is only increasing.
Estimating an hour saved for each permit, UL Solutions, presumes that the solar permitting app has saved people 10,270 hours of permitting review time. UL Solutions developed the app alongside the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
UL Solutions highlights its standout city for use of the rooftop solar permitting app, Tucson, Arizona. “The City of Tucson, Arizona, has already issued 3,587 permits using SolarAPP+, resulting in 21,584 kilowatts approved and an estimated 3,659 hours saved on initial permit reviews.”
“Offering our solar installers a way to self-permit expedites the process,” said Carla Blackwell, director of Pima County, Arizona, Development Services. “Pima County and the City of Tucson were early adopters of SolarAPP+. The permit process used to take several days, or weeks in some cases, but permits can now be issued the same day an application is submitted using SolarAPP+.”
So, the app is working. It’s one thing to develop and launch an app. It’s another for the app to work well, get rave reviews, and get widely adopted. Though, it seemed clear from the beginning that SolarAPP+ would indeed be a winner.
Here’s just a bit more about the app for those who want some more details on what it entails and why it’s so useful: “Combining the experience and technical know-how of NREL, UL Solutions and industry partners with data from participating local authorities and code officials formed the basis for the standardized plan review software. The software can run compliance checks and automate building permit approvals for eligible residential rooftop solar energy systems in a matter of minutes. It can also standardize up to 90% of system plans.”
“UL Solutions supports SolarAPP+ as an important enabler of safer and cleaner energy. SolarAPP+ compliance checks are standardized and automated so that permits for qualified projects can be issued on the same day, alleviating the administrative burden on the local government. We are working collectively with the NREL, the solar industry and municipalities to enable a faster, more efficient platform that bridges the gap between safety, compliance and residential renewable energy through SolarAPP+,” said Ken Boyce, senior director of principal engineering in the Testing, Inspection and Certification group at UL Solutions.
Perhaps we should interview Ken or Carla next.
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