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Accela to Roll Out Free Solar Permitting App to Customers

SolarAPP+, developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is designed to take days or weeks out of the process of getting solar projects approved. Now Accela is bringing the app to its customers at no cost.

Two workers installing solar panels on a roof.
Solar power is taking off — with signs that it will only grow more rapidly in the future — and now a major gov tech company is introducing a free app to its customers to make it easier for property owners to get their rooftop solar projects approved.

Accela is integrating SolarAPP+, which the National Renewable Energy Laboratory released toward the end of last year, meaning it will offer it to its customers through its platform for free as of today. The app gives users an online location to enter all the information necessary to receive a permit from their local jurisdiction and can issue the permit instantly — whereas the average permit takes about two weeks to process, according to a press release from the company. SolarAPP+ also lets applicants know in real time if there’s a problem with the application, such as a typo or code issue.

It will be immediately available to 1,500 agencies that use Accela.

“We’re excited to have an easy-to-use solution for our community that improves user experience for residents and agency staff alike through an instantaneous solar permitting process,” said Carla Blackwell, director of development services at Pima County, Ariz., in the statement. “By leveraging SolarAPP+, our agency has been able to save valuable time, money and human resources to process roughly 250 permits per month in the region.”

Pima County was one of NREL’s partners in developing the app.

Permitting has long been recognized as a stubborn soft cost of solar power. The price of the hardware has come down substantially in recent years, making solar the cheapest source of electricity in many areas, but other costs associated with actually getting the panels online can be difficult to address.

In 2019, NREL found that permitting, inspections and interconnection made up about 8 percent of the cost of solar projects.

The launch with Accela could represent a major expansion of SolarAPP+. In February, NREL noted that three cities and counties had used the app thus far, with more in the pipeline. Accela works with local governments across the country, including most of the largest cities, and its business is focused on permitting and licensing.