New Initiative Designed To Streamline Solar Permitting

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and The Solar Foundation have introduced the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP) initiative, designed to streamline permitting and slash the cost of solar installations.

According to the partners, a solar permitting and inspection process typically adds about $7,000 in direct and indirect costs – approximately $1.00/W – to a typical residential solar energy system. In addition to reducing the expense of solar installations, SolarAPP is designed to improve the efficiency of going solar by creating a rules-based, automated permitting and inspection process.

“The goal is to make solar permitting more straightforward and more routine while, at the same time, maintaining the safety and reliability that U.S. solar projects are known for,” says Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “SolarAPP will cut unnecessary red tape while saving Americans thousands of dollars. By making the process of going solar more efficient, both our companies and their customers win.”

The multi-tiered plan proposes the following reforms:

  • A safety and skills training and certification program that allows residential and small commercial solar and battery storage installers to attest that their projects are compliant with applicable codes, laws and industry practices, thus eliminating the need for a traditional multi-step permitting process;
  • A simple, standardized online platform that will be provided to local governments at no cost to “register” and automatically screen qualifying systems for local government authorities;
  • A list of established equipment standards and/or certified equipment for solar and storage projects installed through the proposed process;
  • The creation, or refinement, of system design standards for qualifying solar projects;
  • A model instantaneous permitting regime for home and small commercial solar and battery storage systems installed by certified installers and contractors; and
  • A program administrator to oversee and implement the plan, including providing technical assistance to state and local jurisdictions and utilities.

“An automated solar permitting process will reduce unnecessary costs and give Americans more freedom to choose how they meet their energy needs,” says Andrea Luecke, president and executive director at The Solar Foundation. “With this plan, we have a clear path forward to make solar installations even more affordable and widespread.”

The solar industry is working with stakeholders across the industry and government to solicit feedback on SolarAPP.

“Improving the permit process and removing this unnecessary cost is critical to the success of the industry,” says Andrew Birch, co-founder of Sungevity. “The major overseas markets are now expanding rapidly, thanks to simple, automated approval processes to install sold systems. We need all the industry’s support to focus on this and make it happen here in the U.S.”

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