The Solar Automated Permit Processing platform (SolarAPP) will be an instant online solar permitting tool for code compliant residential systems. The SolarAPP will create a low-cost, seamless process for rooftop solar and solar+storage installations. It will help make solar energy affordable and accessible for more residents and businesses, while enhancing safety and reliability.

Visit the SolarAPP website at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to stay informed on the latest developments and how you can be involved with the SolarAPP. View our fact sheet here on the benefits of SolarAPP. Re-watch the August 2020 SolarAPP webinar to catch up on the latest developments. 

The Solar Foundation is proud to be a founding partner and co-leader on the SolarAPP. Our participation is supported by the SolSmart program, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.

Why the SolarAPP?

The SolarAPP is a collaborative effort to foster rooftop solar adoption by making it easier for local governments overwhelmed by residential solar applications to quickly and safely approve most rooftop projects for installation. This effort is led by NREL along with key code officials, authorities having jurisdiction at the local level (AHJs), and the solar industry. 

Solar energy is now mainstream across the United States, with over 2 million U.S. solar customers. However, solar in the U.S. is a long way from realizing its full potential. Direct and indirect costs of permitting, inspection and interconnection add about $7,000 ($1.00 per watt) to the cost of a typical residential solar energy system. That is about the same as the value of the 30% federal investment tax credit for solar, which began phasing out at the end of 2019. A patchwork of permitting and interconnection processes create installation and activation delays, increase cancellations and impose costs on solar installations that are far higher than in other mature solar markets.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 public health crisis has led to even more urgency for a user-friendly, automated, and online platform to ease the process for permitting solar installations.

The SolarAPP will:

  • Provide a flexible, web-based PV-permitting tool for residential systems at no-cost to AHJs.
  • Enable standardization of instant permitting processes.
  • Evaluate applications for safety and code compliance.
  • Offer opportunities to incorporate energy storage and expand to other market segments.

SolarAPP Timeline

  • The SolarAPP was first announced at Solar Power International in September 2018.
  • In July 2019, NREL was awarded new funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop and deploy the SolarAPP software platform. Learn more
  • The team is now working with AHJs to test and pilot the new SolarAPP software, to be completed in June 2020. 
  • In September 2020, the SolarAPP will be launched for widespread use.

Expected Results

The SolarAPP campaign expects to achieve the following results by 2025:

  • Make solar energy more affordable and accessible for homeowners and businesses at a wide range of income levels.
  • Save a typical solar consumer more than $7,000 in red tape tied to installation costs.
  • Help local governments and jurisdictions operate more effectively and efficiently without compromising safety or quality of solar systems.
  • Save taxpayer money by reducing local government staff time and costs associated with permit review and inspections at the local level.
  • Open new market opportunities for solar installers, manufacturers, developers, owners, and operators, resulting in more American jobs.

Get Involved

Achieving the SolarAPP vision will require sustained commitments from policy makers, the solar industry, and proponents of solar energy and defenders of the freedom of Americans to choose how they meet their energy needs. For more information on how you can support this effort, contact Richard Lawrence, Program Director at The Solar Foundation (rlawrence@solarfound.org), who can also direct you to the other program partners.

If you are a local government and interested in piloting the SolarAPP in your community please take the SolarAPP Interest questionnaire.

Don’t forget to sign up on the NREL website to receive updates about the SolarAPP.

Additional Resources

A No-Cost Rooftop Solar Stimulus: How streamlining residential solar permit installations can jumpstart a green economic recovery, July 2020

Written by the nonprofit SPUR as part of Rising Together, the group’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this report shows how California and the Bay Area can streamline permitting and inspection requirements to create new jobs in the solar industry. The report includes a discussion of SolarAPP and examples from AHJs.

SolarAPP In the News

SolarAPP residential solar permitting app to launch this fall,” PV Magazine, August 6, 2020

“It’s time to move to instant online residential solar permitting,” Solar Power World, July 21, 2020

“How COVID-19 Is Pushing Cities to Change Energy Permitting for the Better,” Rocky Mountain Institute, July 16, 2020

“Wood MacKenzie: Utility Solar Prices Drop in U.S.,” Energy Global, June 26, 2020

“Coronavirus Could Change the Future of Solar Permitting,” Solar Industry, May 5, 2020

“Sunrun Policy Chief Talks COVID Impact and Solar Power Future,” Forbes, April 25, 2020.

“Remote marketing tips for solar installers during a time of crisis,” Solar Power World, March 23, 2020.

“Sunrun Deploys Record Solar Capacity in Q4 as Battery Interest Increases,” Greentech Media, February 27, 2020.

“New Solar Permit Software,” PV Magazine, July 2, 2019

“Solar groups developing software to streamline PV permitting process,” Solar Power World, July 1, 2019

“Soft cost reduction on the way? NREL developing automated solar permitting software,” Solar Builder, July 1, 2019

“New solar permit software could reduce costs and expand residential markets,” Renewable Energy World, July 1, 2019

“NREL Partners With Stakeholders On New Solar Software,” Solar Industry, July 1, 2019

“How to Value a Solar Pipeline, Part 4,” Greentech Media, April 8, 2019

“10 Predictions for Rooftop Solar and Storage in 2019,” Greentech Media, Jan. 3, 2019

“The Solar Energy Industries Association and The Solar Foundation Aim to Bring Down U.S. Solar Soft Costs,” Solar Magazine, Oct. 17, 2018

“Solar industry association launches initiative to streamline permit process,” Daily Energy Insider, Sept. 26, 2018

“Solar trade groups roll out tool to streamline permitting, interconnection,” Utility Dive, Sept. 25, 2018

“Solar Industry Seeks to Slash Red Tape With New Automated Permitting Initiative,” Greentech Media, Sept. 24, 2018

“SEIA and The Solar Foundation start campaign to streamline solar permitting,” Solar Power World, Sept. 24, 2018

“Solar industry leaders launch new initiative to automate solar project permitting,” Solar Builder, Sept. 24, 2018

The Solar Foundation’s participation in the SolarAPP initiative is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy through the SolSmart Technical Assistance Provider Program (Solar Energy Technology Office Award Number DE-0007155). To learn more about SolSmart, visit SolSmart.org.