SolSmart is a national program initiated and funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) and led by the International City and County Management Association (ICMA), the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), and teams of partners with expert understanding in solar energy and local governments. The Program helps communities, businesses, and homeowners to obtain solar by making it a fast, easy, and affordable process.
SolSmart supports and recognizes cities, counties, local governments, and regional organizations to reduce barriers to obtaining solar, like permitting, interconnection, education, and funding. The Program also provides no-cost technical assistance from a team of national experts and can even assign SolSmart advisors to help advise the communities on how to best implement solar.
To take advantage of the help SolSmart provides, a community needs to simply request a consultation with a technical assistance provider for either in-person or remote assistance to get started. SolSmart holds in-person presentations across the country to provide information on local or regional solar challenges and solutions, as well as opportunities available. Remote assistance includes communication with your community’s SolSmart technical assistance provider via email, one-on-one phone calls, or group conference calls. Other resources available to get started include subject matter webinars, the online resource catalog, and the SolSmart Hotline.
SolarAPP+, short for Solar Automated Permit Processing, is a tool developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in collaboration with Authorities Having Jurisdiction (e.g., local governments, fire marshals, electrical inspectors, etc.) Solar Energy Industries Association, and many others. This standardized plan review software helps qualified businesses or individuals by running compliance checks and cutting down the time frame of the permitting process.
SolarAPP+ is an online web portal that automates the plan review and process for issuing permits to install code-compliant residential photovoltaic (PV) systems. This tool uses inputs provided by the contractor to then automatically perform a compliance check to make sure the proposed system is safe and code compliant. Next, installation practices, workmanship, and adherence to the approved design are then verified by the Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) throughout the inspection process.
This platform’s purpose is to reduce the cost and decrease the time of solar installation. SolarAPP+ makes this possible by offering its service at a low-cost to local governments across the country. To take advantage of the help SolarAPP+ provides, one would simply register for an account to get started . Once an account has been made, an installer can apply with the design specifications and SolarAPP+ will check the application to ensure the design is code compliant and will then issue the permit. Installers also pay the city or county’s permitting fee in the app, alongside a $25 SolarAPP+ fee. This entire process is made quick and easy and significantly cuts down the permitting process.
How SolSmart and SolarAPP+ Work Together
Given the scope of each program, SolSmart and SolarAPP+ complement each other well. SolSmart gives jurisdictions steps to gain Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum designation, while governments can utilize SolarAPP+ as a tool to streamline and accelerate the designation process. Utilizing SolarAPP+ also gives jurisdictions a significant number of required credits for SolSmart.
Furthermore, one of the requirements for achieving platinum SolSmart status is utilizing a pathway for instant approval of residential rooftop solar systems. The SolSmart guidebook specifies SolarAPP+ as a way for jurisdictions to achieve this requirement. Additionally, governments receive 5 SolSmart credit points for simply receiving a demonstration of an instant approval platform such as SolarAPP+. Utilizing SolarAPP+ provides SolSmart communities with an easy way to achieve higher designations and to implement more solar infrastructure.