California launches incentive program for cities to adopt SolarAPP+

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The California Energy Commission has launched its CalAPP program, an initiative to spur growth in rooftop solar by providing incentives to cities and counties to adopt the Department of Energy’s DOE SolarAPP+ software.

SolarAPP+, launched in July 2021, is a free, DOE-developed web-based platform that allows local governments to instantly approve residential solar installation permits. 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. 

SolarApp+ can handle about 90% of solar permits in most jurisdictions, tackling simpler projects, and freeing up time for jurisdictions to focus on more complex building permits that are already clogging their pipelines. According to Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, the platform allows a user to fill out a permit application in as little as 15 minutes, and approvals come instantly; a big change from an average of roughly 20 business days for approval.

In an effort to increase adoption of SolarAPP+ among the state’s municipalities, CalAPP provides grants and assistance, designed as an incentive and to cover the staff time and other resources spent on adoption. The maximum grant sizes range between $40,000 and $100,000 depending on population. The grants are non-competitive and the application is simple.

“CalAPP is a quadruple win,” said Jeanine Cotter, president and CEO of Luminalt, a solar installation company in the Bay Area. “Everyday, we devote a ton of resources to obtaining permits for our clients to go solar. By encouraging cities to adopt the best practice of automating permitting, CalAPP will slash costs for building departments, installers, and customers, leading to solar on more roofs, which in turn will reduce global warming emissions.”

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