With more than 2 million distributed photovoltaic (PV) systems expected to be installed between 2020 and 2025, municipal authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) permitting and inspection processes may become overburdened, causing delays and increased costs for installed systems. Researchers at NREL have developed the SolarAPP+™ software platform to automate and streamline permitting and inspection processes beginning with residential PV and/or storage systems. Once deployed, the SolarAPP+ platform intends to reduce the time and cost of permitting application review and approval processes for all clean energy projects while decreasing customer cancellation rates, thereby expanding clean energy markets nationwide.
As overall photovoltaic (PV) and/or storage system costs have declined, the share of non-hardware or “soft” costs—such as those related to labor, customer acquisition, permitting, and inspection—has grown. For example, each distributed PV and/or storage system must be permitted and inspected by the relevant municipal authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). Installers must expend resources to ensure these systems align with local permitting requirements, pay relevant application fees, and make inspection-related adjustments. More than 20,000 AHJs exist nationwide, each with its own permitting- and inspection-related requirements, application costs, and approval times. Though AHJs and installers understand that an online permitting tool could ensure safety and building code compliance, minimize staff time and resource requirements, and provide other benefits (i.e., an improved end-user experience), they have had a historical disincentive to develop a platform applicable across more than 20,000 AHJs.
NREL’s SolarAPP+ platform will fill a critical market niche, providing AHJs with a software platform that can be used to reduce administration and implementation burdens. The SolarAPP+ platform will provide AHJs, installers, and property owners with a standardized online portal to complete and manage permitting and inspection processes with features to reduce staff time and resource requirements. To do so, the SolarAPP+ platform contains
- Standardized, instantaneous permit workflows for all participating AHJs,
- Permit versioning to build the latest versions of AHJ permits and previously submitted permits,
- A simple workflow with customizable fields for certain AHJ requirements (i.e. temperature, wind and snow load requirements), system installations, and permit versions,
- Notifications to the platform user about the status of the permit in the overall AHJ process,
- A help system to provide generic platform and specific AHJ requirement details,
- User management roles for property owners, installers, and AHJs,
- An application programming interface to existing AHJ workflow systems to ensure process compatibility, and
- Fee collection capabilities.
Applications and Industries
- Residential PV and/or storage property owners,
- Residential PV and/or storage installers, and
- Local municipalities.
To learn more about licensing SolarAPP+™, please contact Jean Schulte at:
NREL’s SolarAPP+™ platform will enable streamlined permit application processes and may reduce installation costs by as much as $7,000 per system. The SolarAPP+ platform will:
- Provide a flexible, web-based permitting tool for residential clean energy systems.
- Encourage the standardization of permitting processes based on best practices observed across AHJs, while allowing for some flexibility to produce permitting applications that meet AHJ-specific requirements (i.e. temperature, wind and snow load requirements).
- Evaluate permit applications and design plans for safety certification and building code compliance.
- Instantly approve code complaint systems.
- Offer AHJs flexibility to administer payments.
- Provide opportunities to expand to other market segments (e.g. main panel upgrades, commercial systems, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure).