US aims to reduce barriers to rooftop solar with instant permitting platform

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More than 3 million homes and businesses in the US now have solar systems. Image: Sunpro Solar.

Free software that instantly approves permits for rooftop solar systems has been launched by the US Department of Energy (DOE) as part of efforts to cut red tape for households across the country.

Dubbed the Solar Automated Permit Processing Plus (SolarAPP+), the tool has been designed to allow local governments to speed up their review and approval of residential PV installation permits, while also making it cheaper and easier for homeowners to access solar systems.

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Solar permitting processes vary widely across the US, the DOE said, with some customers waiting months to secure approval and some installers avoiding operating in areas with difficult permitting processes.

SolarAPP+ aims to solve this problem by providing solar contractors with an automated process for residential installations that reviews PV project applications for building code compliance and instantly approves permits that meet the right specifications.

The platform has already been piloted in four communities throughout Arizona and California, with the city of Tucson using the tool to reduce permitting reviews from approximately 20 business days to zero, according to the DOE.

“SolarAPP+ will bust through bureaucracy to speed up permitting, helping homeowners more quickly add solar panels on their roofs, adding gigawatts of clean electricity to the nation’s grid,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.

The software was developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in collaboration with organisations such as the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the International Code Council, the International Association of Electrical Inspectors and UL.

While more than 3 million homes and businesses in the US already have solar systems, SEIA CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said installations are going to double over the next five years, and “tools like SolarAPP+ can make that process easier, safer and more affordable than ever before”.

To build on the US’ recently reached milestone of 100GW of deployed solar, the DOE is launching a ‘Summer of Solar’ campaign to educate the public about PV and to support its goal of getting 125 local governments to sign up to learn more about SolarAPP+ by the end of September 2021.

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