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NREL’s SolarAPP+ Prize Helps Communities Adopt Automated Solar Permit Processing


The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced 12 communities as winners of Step 1 of the American-Made Solar Automated Permit Processing Plus (SolarAPP+) Prize—a two-step competition to help communities adopt automated processing of residential solar permits, lowering costs and making solar more accessible for homeowners.

SolarAPP+ is an online platform that instantly issues permits for code-compliant residential rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems. Solar permitting can be a major bottleneck for residential solar installations due to long review timelines or unclear processes that might require revised permit applications. SolarAPP+ eases the permitting process and cuts red tape—making it easier for homeowners across the United States to power their homes from the sun while saving time for local governments and installers.

Each of the communities selected during Step 1 of the SolarAPP+ Prize program has been determined to be eligible to adopt SolarAPP+. If they successfully adopt SolarAPP+ during Step 2 of the prize, they will receive $15,000. Although SolarAPP+ is free for any community to use, the prize is designed to reward those communities that can adopt SolarAPP+ quickly.

The 12 communities selected to compete in Step 2 are:

City of Goodyear, Arizona
Village of Midlothian, Illinois
City of Waco, Texas
City of Fremont, California
City of Ann Arbor, Michigan
Lucie County, Florida
City and County of Denver, Colorado
City of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
City of Tiffin, Iowa
Town of Oro Valley, Arizona
City of Washington, Illinois
City of Tool, Texas
“We’re thrilled to see communities from so many different parts of the country represented among the teams,” said Jeff Cook, acting solar analysis subprogram manager at NREL and one of the developers of SolarAPP+. “This geographic diversity helps demonstrate that improved solar permitting can speed solar adoption across the country, as communities across states like Colorado, Florida, and Illinois join communities in Arizona, California, and Texas that have already seen the benefits of SolarAPP+.”

NREL developed SolarAPP+ in collaboration with local governments, code-development organizations, and industry stakeholders to automate the solar permitting review process, free up community staff time, and deliver instant permits for code-compliant PV systems. The SolarAPP+ Prize was created to accelerate adoption of SolarAPP+. NREL manages the prize program with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office.

To date, SolarAPP+ has approved nearly 13,000 permits across 31 jurisdictions. Communities that have adopted SolarAPP+ have saved more than 12,800 hours in plan review time, and projects are installed about two weeks faster, given that permits are issued instantly for code-compliant systems.

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