SolarAPP+ Prize Brings Automated Solar Permitting to Two New States

Four Communities Received Funding To Support Adoption of Permitting Solution That Speeds Residential Solar Adoption

July 26, 2023 | By Harrison Dreves | Contact media relations

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has announced the winners of the first round of the American-Made Solar Automated Permit Processing Plus (SolarAPP+) Prize, which launched on Sept. 12, 2022. The winners span four local governments across the United States—Oro Valley, Arizona; Fremont, California; Tiffin, Iowa; and the city and county of Denver, Colorado—with each jurisdiction receiving a $15,000 cash prize for successfully adopting SolarAPP+.

The prize competition has further accelerated the adoption of SolarAPP+, an online platform that instantly issues permits for code-compliant residential rooftop solar systems.

"SolarAPP+ makes it easier for local governments to approve code-compliant residential solar projects, and the SolarAPP+ Prize helps jurisdictions adopt the platform without having to worry about the incidental costs of adoption," said Jeff Cook, who leads the SolarAPP+ team at NREL. "We were excited to see jurisdictions in two new states—Colorado and Iowa—adopt SolarAPP+ as part of the prize. Their success should make it easier for other communities in those states to follow suit."

Solar permitting can cause a major bottleneck for residential solar installations, adding weeks or even months to project timelines. SolarAPP+ was created to speed the permitting process and ensure code compliance for local governments and installers—while making it easier for homeowners across the United States to power their homes with the sun.

"Adopting SolarAPP+ will save our customers a significant amount of time in the permitting process and help safely bring these important projects to the market more quickly," said Laura E. Aldrete, executive director of Community Planning and Development for the City and County of Denver, a SolarAPP+ Prize winner. Denver notes that in 2022, it approved 3,738 solar applications. Roughly 70% of those applications may have been eligible to use SolarAPP+ to obtain a quick permit—saving city staff approximately 1,240 hours of total review time and reducing average residential solar permit timelines by 30 days.

A recent NREL study of SolarAPP+'s impact found that a typical SolarAPP+ project is permitted, installed, and inspected approximately 13 business days sooner than projects permitted the traditional way. SolarAPP+ projects were also approximately 29% less likely to fail inspections than traditionally permitted projects.

A graphic with three icons recaps keys findings from SolarAPP+ performance in 2022, including, that SolarAPP+ shortened project timelines by an average of 13 business days, saved 9,900 hours of staff time, and resulted in projects that were 29% less likely to fail inspection than traditional permitting.

Launched in 2021, SolarAPP+ has streamlined the rooftop solar system permitting process across the country, with a total of 62 communities using the platform and 22,070 permits issued across 447 contractors. As of July 2023, 21 communities have publicly launched SolarAPP+, and 43 more are piloting the platform.

Although SolarAPP+ is free for communities to adopt, there are associated costs that arise during the implementation process. The SolarAPP+ Prize eases the burden of these costs for communities, helping accelerate the adoption of SolarAPP+.

Learn more about NREL's Solar Market Research and Analysis and SolarAPP+.

Tags: Solar,State Local Tribal,Energy Analysis,Solar Market Research