How do I setup SolarAPP+ with Accela permitting software?

This article describes the process to set up SolarAPP+ for jurisdictions with Accela online permitting software. With Accela, jurisdictions can allow solar installers to submit projects into SolarAPP+, receive approval documentation, and complete their application in Accela with data pre-filled the contractor submitted to SolarAPP+. The integration of SolarAPP+ with your Accela Citizen's Access (ACA) system is straightforward, but contact [email protected] if you experience issues when setting up Accela's SolarAPP-focused residential solar permit template.

The process for setting up Accela to process SolarAPP+ projects is outlined below:

1) Acquire the Residential Solar Permit Template

First, ACA customers must acquire Accela's template for residential solar permits, which is specifically designed to work with SolarAPP+. The template may be requested from Accela at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CivicAppRequest

You will receive the Data Manager File "Residential Solar Permit with SolarAPP.zip," which contains the SolarAPP+ template.

2) Import the Residential Solar Permit Template to your Accela account

Then, the AHJ would add the project template for residential solar permits in their Accela system, enabling Accela to process SolarAPP+ projects. 

To do so, use the Data Manager to import the File "Residential Solar Permit with SolarAPP.zip" into the Building module (the default ACA source module). If you have a different module name, you must map the source Building module to your desired target module. Before importing the file, review for any conflicts with fee schedules or other fields. If necessary, enable the override to complete the import.

The imported template creates a new record type and includes the following required elements, which may be configured to your needs (addressed in the steps below):

  • Record type: Building/Residental/SolarPV/SolarApp
  • Fee schedule: BLDG_RES_PV
  • Custom fields group: BLDG_RES_SA
  • Document code: BLDG_SOLARAPP
  • Workflow: BLDG_SOLARAPP

3) Configure the Residential Solar Permit Page Flow

Next, you may begin to modify the template configuration. Certain elements in the application template can be modified to meet the needs of the jurisdiction. 

Pageflow: BLDG_Residential_Solar_wSolarApp: The Page Flow may be changed to alter the sequence of steps and data collected in the application template. In the Page Flow configuration screen, you can view the elements of data collection and easily change the order of data collection elements and the types of data collected by Accela. You can also modify instructional text relevant to your permitting process.

Your jurisdiction may be wish to modify the legal language to incorporate the streamlined process changes introduced by SolarAPP+. To do so, go to the Final Step in the Page Flow and click on configure next to "Enable Certification." The language displayed can be edited and must be agreed to by the contractor.

4) Adjust Permitting and Inspection Fees (BLDG_RES_PV)

The new fee schedule contains 10 new fee items, summarized below:

  • Administrative fee: BLDGRESPV01. The default amount is $50, but can be modified. This element is required for submittal, so make sure the amount is correct.
  • Other fee items: Permit fee, Plan Review fee, Inspection fee, etc.
  • Fee items can be added or removed depending on the jurisdiction's permitting fee structure. Fee amounts may also be modified.
  • For fee items that you would like to make required, you may set the fee item to auto-assess and display in the fee item configuration.

5) Configure Document Types (BLDG_SOLARAPP)

The document group in the template contains two required document types: 

  • SolarApp Approval
  • SolarApp Spec Sheets

Document types may be added, removed, or modified. You may add additional required documentation by selecting configure next to "Required Document Types."

6) Configure Custom Fields (BLDG_RES_SA)

Custom fields may be added, removed, or modified. The custom fields group can be modified to include items such as custom GIS layers in the SolarAPP+ template. The jurisdiction can configure options in addition to the parameters followed by SolarAPP+, such as inspection types and checklists. You can change the field label alias if you want to use field names different from the default, but DO NOT remove the SolarApp group or SolarApp ID field, or the integration will not work. 

Make sure the Project Types enabled for your jurisdiction in SolarAPP+ match the Project Types dropdown list in ACA.

The message "Is this from SolarAPP+?" can also be modified or removed by altering the expression text.

7) Configure the SolarAPP Workflow (BLDG_SOLARAPP)

The default template configuration is designed to support best practices for streamlined permit review, but you may modify the fields to align with your jurisdiction's process.

For example, you may want to change the default status name ("Default CAP status"). The default status is set to TCO issued, but if your process requires internal review before issuing the permit, you'll want to change this option. You may also use different status labels for "Issued," which you can change on the workflow page.

8) Adjust built-in validation elements (optional)

By default, the SolarAPP+ template is enabled with built-in validation options to ensure that SolarAPP+ project information is not entered in error and to prevent non-SolarAPP+ projects from being permitted through the automated instant workflow. The following options are required to be entered by the contractor, but the jurisdiction may optionally disable these options.

Built-in validation options

  • Required fields
  • If not using SolarAPP+, stop user from completing the permit
  • SolarAPP ID format (e.g., SA202110429-6-47-2-A)
  • Required documents (SolarAPP Approval Document, Spec Documents)

9) Insert Deep Link to online application form

You must enter a Deep Link into your website and/or your jurisdiction's account in SolarAPP+, which allows contractors to initiate the project application directly from SolarAPP+. The link lands users on the first page of the ACA application.

If using the template permit record type, you simply modify the deep link format displayed low with your jurisdiction's name:

10) Enabling Project Revisions

In order to process revisions in ACA, you will need to enable contractors to upload amendment documents. To do so, start by navigating to the Building Settings under the Citizen Access Setup page.

Enable the Attachments section in the record detail by user role and under "Application Status." Make sure to set the record type as searchable by user role.

Allow ACA users to upload project amendment documents in the BLDG_SOLARAPP document group.

11) Contractors can now submit projects into SolarAPP+ and complete the application in Accela

Once enabled, fields in the residential solar template will be populated with project data from the SolarAPP+ application forms, eliminating the need for contractors to input their project information twice. The data will be pre-filled on the Support Documentation stage.

Pre-filled project data:

  • Permit type
  • Work location (project address)
  • Was this done in SolarAPP+? (Y)
  • SolarAPP+ Approval Document
  • SolarAPP+ Approval ID#
  • SolarAPP+ Spec Documents
  • Description/scope of work
  • System size

Contractors would be required to enter a few pieces of remaining information not included in the above items, including the contractor's licensing information.

Fees and project information on the dashboard, with details viewable on the 'My Records' tab.

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