Need a Residential Solar or Storage Permit? Soon There May be ‘an App for That’

Solar industry unveils campaign to streamline solar permitting.

This week in Anaheim, California, solar industry professionals are gathering for the annual Solar Power International (SPI) event. SPI is generally marked with company announcements by vendors, new reports from think tanks and research organizations, and keynotes from industry leaders. 2018 looks to be no different.

One new initiative being announced this week is an effort to streamline solar permitting for residential solar installations.

Called the Solar Automated Permitting Process (SolarAPP), the initiative seeks to remove many of the permitting hurdles that solar installers must go through in order to get a new residential solar installation up and running. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Solar Foundation are behind the initiative.

According to SEIA, the permitting and inspection process adds about $7,000 in direct and indirect costs, approximately $1.00 per watt, to a typical residential solar energy system. The SolarAPP initiative creates a rule-based, automated permitting and inspection process.

 SEIA president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said “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 CEO of Sunrun, Lynn Jurich, ought to know about the complicated permitting processes on the books in many jurisdictions. Sunrun does business in 23 states according to its website. Jurich said in a press releases that there is “a patchwork of inconsistent permitting procedures and standards across the U.S.”

The SolarAPP 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;
  • 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;
  • A program administrator to oversee and implement the plan, including providing technical assistance to state and local jurisdictions and utilities.

The solar industry is working with stakeholders across the industry and government, seeking feedback on SolarAPP, which, if enacted, would address part of the solar installation process that is more difficult to fix.

“So much of the innovation in the past decade in the rooftop solar space has focused on making the technology more attainable via loans and other financial tools,” said Billy Parish, founder and CEO of Mosaic, the leading home solar financing company in the U.S.

“Targeting so-called soft costs, such as permitting, is the next frontier in affordability, critical in moving us toward clean energy for all,” he added.

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Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com

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