NREL-led Solar Permitting Platform Lessens Project Times by Nearly Two Weeks

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released a new pilot study on the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+) tool – a free, web-based platform for automating residential solar permit approval – revealing the platform’s impact in the communities where it is deployed.

The study found that the software significantly reduced the time it takes for residential solar panels to be approved, inspected, and installed. The study revealed that SolarAPP+ projects were installed and inspected 12 days faster than traditional projects.

The outcome of the pilot study was featured in a recent White House Fact Sheet focused on the federal government’s work to deploy clean energy that creates jobs and lowers costs.

“In July 2021, the Department of Energy launched the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+) tool, an online platform that enables jurisdictions to rapidly approve residential solar installation permits. Now, a new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that in a pilot conducted in Arizona and California, the SolarAPP+ tool reduced the average permit review time to less than one day,” the White House Fact Sheet reports.

The SolarAPP+ pilot study was done in five jurisdictions that have different characteristics and needs: Menifee (Calif.); Pima County (Ariz.); Pleasant Hill, Calif., Stockton, Calif., and Tucson, Ariz. It allowed users to evaluate the impact of the tool on the time it took to process permit reviews, conduct inspections, and see the installation through to completion. There were many time savings in permitting review.

The comparison chart shows the median permit review time for SolarAPP+ before and after SolarAPP+. Prior to SolarAPP+, Menifee’s median permit review time was eight days. Pima County’s average time was 5 days. Pleasant Hill was quicker than Stockton, which took just 4.5 days. Lastly, Tucson’s median review time was 24 days. SolarAPP+ cut these permit review time to less than one day in all communities.

Although photovoltaic panel prices for residential buildings have dropped significantly in the last decade however, it is still expensive and time-consuming to permit, inspect and connect them. SolarAPP+ solves this problem directly by making it easier for homeowners get solar. This tool will help homeowners save time, money and frustration and accelerate progress towards a carbon free future.