In July 2021, the US Department of Energy (DOE) and NREL released the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+), a free software aimed at automating residential solar permitting. The tool was launched in a webinar by DOE Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm, and with the help of promotion from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), was adopted by several pilot cities.
The results from the pilot program are now in, and it appears SolarAPP+ delivered on its promise to reduce project times. In the pilot of five jurisdictions across diverse residential solar market characteristics and needs, SolarAPP+ reduced overall project times by an average of 12 days.
Though the cost for PV equipment has lowered in the last decade, costs from permitting, inspection, and interconnection remain high, said NREL. Shortened project times are viewed as an important feature of customer experience and retention, as residential solar soft costs like customer acquisition are also relatively expensive in the United States.
A smooth permitting process can help both keep a customer satisfied throughout the installation process and make them more likely to refer their friends, family, or neighbors to adopt solar. Referrals are an important part of the residential solar sales process, creating a network of customers and lowering soft costs for developers.
Three Californian cities and two jurisdictions in Arizona were chosen for the pilot study. In all areas, project permit approvals were reduced to less than one day on average. The most relief came to Tucson, AZ, where the paper permitting process averaged 24 days.
The tool also provides relief to authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) i.e., city and county employees, who no longer have to process a massive influx of paperwork due to the steep rise in residential solar demand. The software has been approved for both solar photovoltaic systems and battery energy storage.
On February 17th, SEIA will host a webinar to overview the pilot study results.
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