Skip to content

⚡ "SolarAPP+ Takes Off"

Renewable Energy SmartPod

Photo by Manny Becerra / Unsplash

Host: Sean McMahon
Guest: Arthur Coulston | Chair | SolarAPP Foundation
Category: ⚡ Renewable Energy

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[2:54] “SolarAPP+ is a software tool. It was funded by the Department of Energy […]. And the software automates the permitting process for home solar and storage systems. It is adopted by those cities and counties, those are the jurisdictions that are in charge of permitting in the United States and empowers them to offer instant and online permitting for solar. Often they don't have the tools to do that and so it's a software tool that makes it easy for them to do that. And easy for contractors and installers in those areas to pull those permits instantly online and make that process better for everyone.”

[3:47] “[Solar permitting processes] in the United States […] were weeks and months. And more than just the long timeframe was often the uncertainty of the timeframe. So even in jurisdictions where they made some progress in improving those timeframes, when they saw solar adoption go up that of course increased demand for those permits, and then their permitting timelines would go up, right at times when you'd be hoping that they'd be going down. And so that jump from a couple of weeks to instant is huge and has a huge impact on the cost for those contractors on the experience for the customers. But equally so it's just the certainty of it.”

[11:10] “In late last year, with Pima County, Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, Pleasant Hill, California, and Menifee, California, we kicked off a pilot. And so these were the first real permits being issued through SolarAPP, and we did that, in those communities with half of their permitting volume going through SolarAPP+ and half of their permanent volume going through their normal process, which really allowed us to look at […] [our] impact. And we did see a big impact on how much time it is saving the jurisdiction, how much time it is saving the installers. […] And those jurisdictions have turned into some of our biggest spokespeople and proponents in helping to bring this to more jurisdictions. And so we just recently came out of that phase, and officially launched SolarAPP and now are available to jurisdictions to adopt more broadly. And we're seeing a big boost in interest.”

[12:41] “It was important that it was free to the jurisdictions. One, they don't have a lot of resources. It also gets really complicated for them to procure software that costs a lot of money. It's also funded by the federal government. So the idea was to be building this as a resource and a tool for local jurisdictions. And it's currently funded by Department of Energy funding, and long term will be funded by a small fee to the installers. And so when an installer applies for their permanent SolarAPP+, they pay us a small fee for that, and that is intended to sustain the project long term.”

[18:45] “In some […] countries with consistent national permitting programs, Germany, UK, parts of Europe, Australia, you see cost around half, sometimes two thirds, […] of what they are in the United States. […] For the most part, it's permitting that causes that delay and causes that uncertainty. And so if we can shrink that down to nothing, and also along with that, get consistent rules, consistent expectations, and bring that to many jurisdictions so that the industry can build processes and automations around that expectation, I really think we'll see the US starting to come down closer to some of those other markets. And if we could achieve anything close to that, it would be a game changer for the United States, because we are already seeing solar booming.

[26:06] “The solar market is largely focused in a couple 100 jurisdictions. So we […] have goals to reach hundreds of jurisdictions over the next year or two. […] Also, there's other parallel efforts that I'd really love to see be successful. […] I'm very interested in […] similar challenges with […] EV charging stations and other parts of this clean energy infrastructure that needs to be deployed incredibly rapidly this decade. And if we don't fix some of these bottlenecks in regulation for all of that infrastructure, we're not going to be able to deploy it fast enough. And so I'm very interested in that and involved in conversations around those related efforts. I think there's a possibility that there'll be learnings from SolarAPP+ that are applicable to those other issues.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 30 min | 🗓️ 08/03/2021
✅ Time saved: 28 min