Last May, the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory released its SolarAPP+ to assist installers with solar permits. The program, which is currently in use in nine communities in Arizona and California, has saved applicants invaluable time thanks to its error-catching system. As SolarAPP+ comes up on one year of use, more than 4,700 permits have been issued, amounting to more than 31 MW of approved power. Thousands of homes have been able to take advantage of renewables and many more households are looking to do the same. According to NREL data, four more communities are in various testing phases with SolarAPP+ and communities across the country have expressed interest in using the program.
Amber D'Ottavio, the vice president of product management for Accela, the software developer that created SolarAPP+, told Utility Drive recently that “this is just the beginning.” D’Ottavio envisions success stories like the more than 2,100 permits issued in Tucson will inspire other agencies, as will advancements within SolarAPP+ itself. At this juncture, SolarAPP+ is only available for residential use, but D’Ottavio told Utility Drive that Accela is already looking to expand its use to commercial and non-rooftop solar permits as well as expediting the overall permitting process so that applicants no longer have to print out their documents and can instead submit them digitally.
In addition to panels themselves, SolarAPP+ also allows for storage permits. More than 300 of the permits issued through the software have included battery storage. That number will likely increase as the California cities of Beaumont, Modesto, Oceanside, and Richmond move further along in their piloting and testing phases. Solar and battery storage are considered key renewable technologies in the quest to reach net-zero. The adoption of such innovations must escalate and scale considerably, according to the International Energy Agency. A report from last year from the IEA noted that, “for solar power, it is equivalent to installing the world’s current largest solar park roughly every day.” Luckily, there are regions in the U.S. that are forging a path forward, especially when it comes to solar adoption.
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According to the industry magazine Solar Power World, April 3 saw California get 97% of its power from renewable energy—a new record for the state, albeit one that was achieved briefly at around 3:39 PM that day. Still, advocates believe it’s a sign of a fully renewable future that aligns with the state’s goal of providing carbon-free power by 2045. Additional solar projects in California will see millions of acres of desert land developed for solar projects, along with off-shore wind projects marking a first for the state, which has many wind farms in its interior but not along its coast.