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For the first time, solar and wind energy are now cost competitive with oil and gas according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. This is a beacon of hope in the transition to renewable energy and the fight for our planet’s future. 

It’s also an important moment for communities to seize the opportunity of renewable energy. Huge upfront costs and, in many cases, bureaucratic gridlock are slowing down our transition to renewable energy. Cloud-based technology like Accela’s is helping communities address these challenges and streamline solar permitting. 

One year ago this month, Accela announced its partnership with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) to launch a free, instant solution that makes solar permitting faster, easier, and cheaper. With SolarAPP+, it’s more possible than ever for states, cities, and counties to embrace solar energy, meet climate goals, expand employment opportunities, and combat climate change through practical, local action. In one year, SolarAPP+ has saved communities around 4,700 hours in permitting timelines and thousands of dollars.

Today, we celebrate the one year anniversary of SolarAPP+ by reflecting on the solution’s impact, new data, and an exciting new API that makes it even faster and easier for communities to adopt solar energy. Now more than ever, SolarAPP+ is a key player in communities’ fight against climate change – and its impact will only continue to scale.

One year of SolarAPP+: 5,000 permits issued, thousands saved in time and money

As of March 2022, 13 communities have adopted or are piloting SolarAPP+ – including many Accela customers like Pima County, AZ; Tucson, AZ; Menifee, CA; and Sonoma County, CA. In one year, approximately 5,000 permits and more than 31,300 kilowatts of energy have been approved thanks to the new app, the equivalent to 7.7 tons of waste recycled instead of landfilled. These results all point to the value of modern government technology in helping communities deliver better experiences to residents and become more efficient.

The city of Tucson, Arizona alone approved 14,601 kilowatts and saved an estimated 2,176 hours in review time since launching SolarAPP+. As permitting adds on average $2,000 per residential installation, the people of Tucson are saving hundreds of dollars with each new permit now through SolarAPP+. With the solution, communities can adopt solar faster, reallocate funds to pressing community needs, simplify processing, and tangibly move toward local climate goals. 

New data coming out of Pima County and the city of Tucson, Arizona reveals: 

Jurisdiction use of SolarAPP+ Mean permit review time (hours) SolarAPP+ permits Time saved on permit review (hours) Mean permit revision time (hours) SolarAPP+ revisions Time saved on revisions (hours) Total Time Saved (hours)
City of Tucson 1 2317 2317 0.75 714 535.5 2852.5
Pima County 1 1259 1259 0.75 362 271.5 1530.5
Total 1 3576 3576 0.75 1076 807 4383

“Pima County and the City of Tucson, Arizona believe that all cities, states, counties, and localities must act in the fight against climate change, for healthier futures for all their residents. We use SolarAPP+ as an immediate, affordable, necessary step toward changing our current systems to usher in a greener future,” said Pima County Director of Development Services Carla Blackwell. 

New Accela API makes solar permitting even faster, easier, and cheaper

Additionally, Accela recently developed a new API for SolarAPP+ that fully integrates the process, giving installers confidence in auto-approvals and further reducing time per permit. The Accela API – part of our Construct API and soon to be in combination with a new API developed by NRE – integrates SolarAPP+ directly with Accela Citizen Access (ACA). Solar panel installers simply input plans into SolarAPP+, then are automatically redirected to ACA with an auto-filled permit for an auto-approval to start the project.

Before the API integration, installers would submit designs to receive automated plan review and approval through SolarApp+ and then upload the information provided by SolarApp+ into their permit application in ACA. This new tight integration makes auto-approvals for solar permitting seamless and intuitive from start to finish, with no room for error. 

This update significantly reduces time and money spent by an installer to apply for a solar rooftop permit – on top of the already substantial savings through SolarAPP+. And agencies further trust the auto-approval process to save time, money, and manpower – creating more jobs and reallocating resources to other essential services or more complicated tasks.

Looking toward SolarAPP+’s second anniversary

SolarAPP+ helps cities and counties meet the scale of our climate crisis. And, now one year after launch, this solution is championed by state and federal political leaders as a clear, helpful tool for communities to create a better future. 

On the heels of this government technology milestone, California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) is sponsoring legislation to require instant, online solar permitting. Senator Wiener included SolarAPP+ as a key component in this effort. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm also called on mayors across the United States to adopt SolarAPP+ to make going green easier, and encouraged more than 125 U.S. communities to sign-up to learn more about SolarAPP+.

New technology – like SolarAPP+’s new API – is making the transition to renewable energy more accessible and affordable. The solution is an easy, immediate way to get more panels on roofs, create more jobs and reallocate agency resources to other essential services. It’s through these local, collective actions by cities and counties across the U.S. that we’re moving the needle in the fight against climate change.  

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