DOE website to quicken solar array permit process

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 582 views 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently launched a web-based platform that’s expected to accelerate permit approval for residential solar arrays. The DOE’s Solar Automated Permit Processing Plus (SolarAPP+) tool also is expected to save customers money.

Nick Gorden, CEO of Rogers-based solar energy company Shine Solar, said SolarAPP+ was designed to provide immediate approval for the most common projects. More custom projects, however, might take longer for approval, he noted. Overall, the company expects to save four to five wage hours per permit. If widely adopted, SolarAPP+ could save the company about $4,000 weekly in labor costs, based on location. Shine Solar has 227 employees, serving Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Gorden said the savings would be passed on to customers, with an estimated savings of “a couple thousand dollars” depending on the system installed. This would be in addition to the 26% federal tax credit and the accelerated five-year depreciation savings for businesses through the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System, he added.

“There is no reason why any forward-thinking community shouldn’t adopt the SolarAPP+ platform for solar installation permitting,” Gorden said. “It’s free to use, cuts labor time for city and county governments, makes solar more affordable for the customer and faster to install, and provides a streamlined revenue source for these governments from increased permitting. There really is no downside to using this system. Everyone benefits.”

According to the DOE, solar power costs have declined 90% over the past decade; however, the soft costs of solar installations remain a barrier for those interested in solar power, especially the expenses incurred by customers, contractors and governments as a result of delays in obtaining rooftop solar installation permits.

SolarAPP+ provides solar contractors nationwide with a standard, automated permitting process for residential projects. Governments that have tested the new platform have increased residential solar installations by 600%. In Tucson, Ariz., it reduced permitting reviews from 20 business days to zero. Nationwide, 25% of projects take more than two weeks to permit, while 5% take more than a month.