The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has achieved its goal set this summer, announcing that more than 125 communities have signed up to use the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+) tool — a free, DOE-developed web-based platform that allows local governments to instantly approve residential solar installation permits.
A total of 127 communities have made the commitment, so DOE has extended the challenge, now looking to add another 60 communities through the SolSmart program by March 2022.
SolarAPP+ was developed DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and in May, NREL signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the global company UL to develop and commercialize the app, which was officially launched in mid-July.
“Everyone has access to sunlight but not everyone has access to solar power—this Administration is committed to changing that,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE’s SolarAPP+ tool and SolSmart program are helping communities tear down barriers to clean energy and unlock the health and economic benefits of solar.”
In using the app, there is a cost of $25 per approved permit, but in many early trials, jurisdictions have subsequently lowered their permit fees due to the benefit of saved time, leading to an average of $6 in savings per project.
The SolSmart program, under which communities can sign up to add SolarAPP+, offers targeted, no-cost technical assistance to communities across the U.S., aiding municipalities in becoming solar-ready and streamlining local processes. More than 400 communities in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have received SolSmart designations. Nine million people live in communities with a SolSmart designation.
Earlier this year, DOE announced a $10 million funding opportunity to expand SolSmart over the next five years and incorporate new solar-related technologies while emphasizing assistance for underserved communities.
SolSmart has found success nationwide, with the city of West Palm Beach, Florida seeing a 50% year-over-year increase in solar installations after using SolSmart to institute one-day permitting. In Orlando, Florida, the number of solar contractors working in the state doubled since the city achieved SolSmart Gold designation, and in Boise, Idaho, residential solar permits increased by almost 50% in the year following their designation.
In case you were wondering, the “plus” in SolarAPP+ references energy storage permitting , which is expected to be added to the software soon.
Jurisdictions interested in taking on this initiative to save time in their approvals departments, and solar companies looking for faster install times can navigate to https://solarapp.nrel.gov/ to get started.
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