What is SolarAPP's impact on jurisdictions?

The rapid increase in residential solar PV adoption has challenged authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) to keep pace with the higher volume of solar applications requiring review and approval. The variability in permitting processes across jurisdictions creates confusion, and slows the permitting process. This further exacerbate permitting turn around time and drives up permitting costs. To address these constraints, Solar Automated Permit Processing, SolarAPP+ was launched in 2021. SolarAPP+ is an online web portal that automates the plan review and instantaneously issues permits to install code-compliant residential photovoltaic (PV) systems.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) published the first report on the SolarAPP+ Pilot Analysis that evaluates the performance of the SolarAPP+ on five selected AHJs. Some of the findings are as follows: 
  • Jurisdictions saved 236 hours on permit and revision reviews
  • SolarAPP+ reduced average permit review times (permit submission to issuance) to less than one day across all five jurisdictions 
  • Contractors participated in required training on how to use the application efficiently
  • Inspection passage rates for SolarAPP+ projects were comparable to traditionally permitted projects, with nominal impacts on inspection duration
  • SolarAPP+ projects were installed and inspected 12 days faster than projects using traditional permitting processes
In 2022, NREL released the second report on SolarAPP+ Performance Review. It has a more comprehensive assessment of the SolarAPP+ performance beyond the pilot jurisdiction. Ten jurisdictions participated in its first full year of operation in 2021. Here are five key takeaways: 
1. Jurisdiction Permit Volume: In 2021, 102 installers were issued 3,291 permits through the SolarAPP+ platform. On average, SolarAPP+ permit volume penetration rates increased from 9% during pilots to 37% after SolarAPP+ was launched across the six jurisdictions. 
2. Jurisdiction Permit Review Impacts: The most evident impact of SolarAPP+ occurs during permit review. SolarAPP+ reduced permit review duration from 9 days for traditional projects to zero for SolarAPP+ projects by issuing permits instantaneously for code-compliant applications. Moreover, SolarAPP+ saved about 3,300 hours of cumulative jurisdiction staff time through automated permit reviews, roughly adding 1.5 full-time employees across the participating jurisdictions.
3. Jurisdiction Inspection Impacts: SolarAPP+ projects are about 37% less likely to fail inspections than similar traditional projects (compared to the traditional projects from seven jurisdictions).
4. Solar Adoption Timeline Impacts: A typical SolarAPP+ project is permitted, installed, and inspected around 13 days sooner than traditional projects (32 days through SolarAPP+ compared to 45 days through traditional process).
5. SolarAPP+ Solar and Storage Pilot: SolarAPP+ was updated to include the option to deliver instant permits for solar PV systems along with certain storage products. NREL will evaluate the performance of SolarAPP+ in relation to solar and storage projects in a future performance review.

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