As more American households go solar, automatic permitting promises to increase the number of solar projects, reduce delays and improve project outcomes according to an annual performance report on SolarAPP+, an automatic permitting platform developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
SolarAPP+, which NREL created with support from the U.S. Department of Energy, and in collaboration with industry and the building safety community, eases the permitting process and cuts red tape, making it easier for permit granting authorities to issue permits for residential PV systems and solar-plus-storage systems. With SolarAPP+, the authorities having jurisdiction can instantly issue permits for code-compliant residential PV systems.
The key findings of the 2022 SolarAPP+ performance report include:
- Adoption of SolarAPP+ is expanding rapidly—15 authorities having jurisdiction had publicly launched SolarAPP+ by the end of 2022, and 16 more were piloting the platform. Another 89 were testing or preparing to pilot SolarAPP+.
- Automatic permitting is spreading —Initially, SolarAPP+ was predominantly adopted in Arizona and California, but communities in other states, such as Connecticut, Texas, and Virginia have also implemented the tool.
- Automatic permitting increases the number of solar permits —Across 31 authorities having jurisdiction, 206 installers submitted more than 11,000 permits using SolarAPP+ in 2022—a 300% increase over 2021.
- Automatic permitting results in shorter project timelines—A typical SolarAPP+ project is permitted, installed, and inspected approximately 13 business days sooner than projects permitted in the traditional way.
- Automatic permitting saves staff time—SolarAPP+ saved approximately 9,900 hours of staff time in 2022 (i.e., permitting department staff).
- Automatic permitting had no negative impact on inspections—SolarAPP+ projects were approximately 29% less likely to fail inspections than projects that were permitted the traditional way.
“Most residential rooftop solar installations are straightforward,” said Johanna Neumann, Senior Director of the Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy. “SolarApp+ allows run-of-the-mill rooftop solar projects to move forward in a timely manner, while freeing up the valuable time of permitting staff to focus on projects that need their attention. America needs more rooftop solar, fast. This SolarApp+ performance report provides further evidence that adopting automatic permitting for rooftop solar offers critical benefits that will help this valuable clean energy technology become even more widespread. Now we just need more communities across America adopting automatic permitting for rooftop solar.”
America’s solar energy potential is tremendous. Solar energy alone – counting utility-scale and rooftop PV — has the technical potential to produce 284 million GWh of electricity each year, equivalent to 78 times U.S. electricity use in 2020.