California recently launched a first-in-the-nation initiative to spur growth in rooftop solar and reduce consumer costs by cutting red tape that impedes solar installations.
The California Energy Commission’s “CalAPP” program will provide incentives to cities and counties to adopt SolarAPP+, software designed by the federal Dept. of Energy using innovative technology that issues building permits for rooftop solar in real time. SolarAPP+ eliminates permitting delays, standardizes the permitting process between jurisdictions and reduces the cost of solar, leading to solar on more roofs.
Properties that install solar first need to receive a permit from the local building department, but outdated and bureaucratic permitting requirements in many areas combined with chronic staffing shortages can add months of delays and thousands of dollars to solar projects. In many cases, property owners give up on solar entirely. Even in the several cities and counties with streamlined solar permitting, different processes and requirements unique to that jurisdiction can add significant costs to contractors who pass those on to their customers.
Environmental advocates, the solar industry, and consumer groups are hopeful that the CalAPP program will remove these roadblocks and praised the new program.
“How does California expect homes to go solar if they can’t get a permit? How does California expect solar to be everywhere if every city and county has their own rules?” said Ben Davis, policy associate with the California Solar & Storage Association. “Thank the solar gods for CalAPP, which should open the floodgates on rooftop solar.”
The federal Department of Energy modeled SolarAPP+ after San Jose’s and Los Angeles’ home built solar permitting platforms. San Jose’s and Los Angeles’ software, similar to SolarAPP+, asks the contractor a series of questions to verify that the system is up to code and then issues the permit automatically, enabling construction to begin the same day. The number of homes going solar annually in San Jose increased sixfold after the software launch in 2015.
The CalAPP program provides grants and assistance to cities and counties to adopt SolarAPP+. While SolarAPP+ is free, the grants are designed as an incentive and to cover the staff time and other resources spent on adoption. The maximum grant sizes range between $40,000 and $100,000 depending on population. The grants are non-competitive and the application is simple.
Since its launch last year, dozens of California cities and counties have either adopted SolarAPP+ or are in the process of onboarding and piloting the platform. Now, with the CalAPP program funding available, the number of local jurisdictions acting to help consumers install solar efficiently is expected to grow rapidly.
News item from the California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA)