NREL: NREL-Led Solar Permitting Software Reduces Project Times by 12 Business Days

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released a new pilot study on the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+) tool—a free, web-based platform for automating residential solar permit approval—revealing the platform’s impact in the communities where it is deployed.

The results of the study are impressive: The software substantially reduces the time it takes to permit, inspect, and install residential solar panels. Notably, the study found that projects submitted through the SolarAPP+ platform were installed and inspected on average 12 business days faster than projects using the traditional process.

The outcome of the pilot study was featured in a recent White House Fact Sheet focused on the federal government’s work to deploy clean energy that creates jobs and lowers costs.

“In July 2021, the Department of Energy launched the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+) tool, an online platform that enables jurisdictions to rapidly approve residential solar installation permits. Now, a new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that in a pilot conducted in Arizona and California, the SolarAPP+ tool reduced the average permit review time to less than one day,” the White House Fact Sheet reported.

The SolarAPP+ pilot study was conducted across five jurisdictions with diverse characteristics and needs: Menifee, California; Pima County, Arizona; Pleasant Hill, California; Stockton, California; and Tucson, Arizona. Users from these jurisdictions utilized the tool to assess impacts on the time needed to process permit reviews, implement inspections, and see installation to completion. As shown in the below figure, time savings on permitting review varied.

Median Business Days for Permit Review
The comparison chart shows the median business days for permit review time before SolarAPP+ and then with SolarAPP+. Prior to SolarAPP+, Menifee, California’s median permit review time was eight days. Pima County, Arizona’s average time was 5 days. Pleasant Hill, California was less than a day and Stockton, California was 4.5 days. Lastly, Tucson’s median review time was 24 days. SolarAPP+ reduced these permit review times to less than a day in all communities.
Although the cost of photovoltaic panels for residential buildings has dramatically decreased in the last decade, the time and cost involved in permitting, inspection, and interconnection still remain high. SolarAPP+ addresses this problem directly, making it easier for homeowners to gain access to solar. As a result, the tool helps homeowners save time, money, and frustration, and will ultimately help speed progress toward a carbon-free energy future.

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