Last year, the California legislature passed the Solar Access Act (SB 379) that requires cities and counties to automate their permitting for residential rooftop solar and energy storage systems. The easiest way for municipalities to comply with the law is by adopting software created by the federal Department of Energy called SolarAPP+, which integrates with govtech platforms such as Accela. To help municipalities comply with the law, the California Energy Commission is providing them with “CalAPP” grants to adopt SolarAPP+. These grants can cover an array of costs including subscriptions to Accela for up to three years. Grant applications must be submitted by May 1, and we want to be sure agencies in California don’t miss out on this unprecedented opportunity.
The good news is that the grant application is easy. Applicants need to provide their contact information, the jurisdiction’s population, and the estimated timeline for adopting SolarAPP+. The grants are also non-competitive. There is no need to put together a detailed proposal to receive the funds – just fill out the application. The grants range between $40,000 and $100,000 depending on the population.
Details about SolarAPP+
SolarAPP+ (Solar Automated Permitting Platform) is an online platform that automates and standardizes building departments’ permitting processes for standard residential rooftop solar and energy storage systems. SolarAPP+ asks the contractor a series of questions to verify that the solar system’s design is up to code, runs automated code compliance checks, and then – for compliant systems – issues a permit automatically for installation to begin. The Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) developed SolarAPP+ in 2021. The platform is free for building departments.
For cities and counties, SolarAPP+ frees up staff time to plan and check other types of projects. For solar installers, SolarAPP+ reduces project delays and the resources devoted to permitting, which lowers the cost of solar and makes it attainable to more households.
To adopt SolarAPP+, municipalities begin by registering at solarapp.nrel.gov/register and following the prompts to onboard. Municipalities integrating SolarAPP+ with Accela should follow these instructions. Accela’s SolarAPP+ integration is a pre-configured record type in our Civic Application for Building. It is straightforward to deploy and allows agencies to quickly get started receiving the SolarAPP+ issued permit number from the installer’s entry into the Civic Platform. Building department staff can take an online course on inspecting a SolarAPP+ system for continuing education units. Any questions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Solar Access Act Deadlines by Jurisdiction Size
The Solar Access Act requires cities with more than 50,000 residents and counties with more than 150,000 residents to adopt SolarAPP+ by September 30, 2023. Cities with 5,000-50,000 residents must adopt SolarAPP+ by September 30, 2024. Cities with fewer than 5,000 residents, counties with fewer than 150,000 residents, and all cities in those counties are exempt, but they are still eligible for the CalAPP grant. The Solar Access Act also requires cities and counties to file annual reports with the California Energy Commission on solar permitting.
Resources for CalAPP grants:
- CA Energy Commission
- Grant application
- CA Energy Commission’s flyer
- List of cities and counties that have already applied for the grant
- Email address: CalAPP@energy.ca.gov
Remember, the deadline to apply is May 1!