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How to Cut Soft Costs & Permit Faster with SolarAPP & Automated Solar Letters



The Solar Automated Permit Processing Plus (SolarAPP) software eliminated 134,000 days of permitting delays last year alone. Since it was launched in July 2021 by the Department of Energy and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), SolarAPP has saved over 15,000 hours of jurisdiction staff time as well as resulted in projects being completed 13 business days sooner. SolarAPP projects are also 29 percent less likely to fail inspections. Below we cover current SolarAPP incentives, and the ways in which SolarApp and SolarLetters.com are leveraging automation to enable solar installers complete projects in record time - all while advancing the nation’s clean energy goals.


SolarAPP Incentives & Requirements

States around the country are increasingly recognizing SolarAPP’s value and impact, and are including the platform directly in new legislation. For example, California has required every county and city to adopt SolarAPP or a similar automated permitting program. Also, as of May of this year, Colorado now provides nearly $1 million to support local governments in adopting the software.


As support for SolarAPP continues to grow throughout the nation, new programs are also arising to help fund as well as incentivize automated solar permitting adoption, such as California’s CalAPP program grants. The California Energy Commission is providing $20 million in grants through this program to help counties and cities recover the cost of staff time and other resources spent on incorporating SolarAPP into day-to-day practices.


How SolarAPP Streamlines Permitting

SolarAPP works by automating and standardizing building departments’ permitting processes for straightforward residential rooftop solar systems. Part of how SolarAPP accomplishes this is by integrating with Accela and other government technology building software. The platform asks the contractor a series of questions to ensure the solar system’s design meets applicable code requirements and then runs automated code compliance and plan checks. For the code compliant systems, SolarAPP then automatically issues a permit, allowing the installation to begin. Permits can be issued as quickly as the same day they are submitted.

Large-scale adoption of automated solar permitting ensures state-wide consistency and ease of compliance for solar installers. Instead of an installer having to learn myriad permitting processes across city or county lines, the permitting process with SolarAPP becomes the same no matter where the installer happens to be working. For those who have not yet begun using SolarAPP, the onboarding process can be started online. For questions, email team@solar-app.org.


Automated Solar Letters Supplement SolarAPP

In order to fully minimize residential solar project timelines and soft costs, solar installers can now leverage SolarAPP in conjunction with SolarLetters.com, the first company to fully automate structural letters, professional engineer (PE) stamps, and post-installation letters for residential solar installation companies in all 50 U.S. states. There are currently many costly inefficiencies within the solar letter and PE stamp process in the residential solar industry, with most firms still performing calculations manually or using Word or Excel documents. All of these methods have been tested and proven to be highly error prone, particularly with non-degreed engineers manually completing forty to fifty letters per day. As a result of investing in advanced automation and its database of over 40,000 authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), and associated codes that have been continuously updated since 1998, Solar Letters has been able to guarantee its 99 percent AHJ approval rate.


It is important to note also that, while SolarAPP and Solar Letters’ automation platforms can be used together to reduce permitting times and installation soft costs, SolarAPP is focused more so on simple, cookie cutter solutions. Solar Letters, on the other hand, is able to provide site specific solutions for all types of projects, which enables a lower and more accurate Bill of Materials (BoM). Solar Letters also offers the fastest turnaround time in the industry - guaranteed or a full credit will be issued, as well as the lowest price, which includes price matching. Solar Letters’ experience combined with its advanced technology has enabled it the capacity to generate over 100,000 solar letters per month, allowing residential solar installers to complete more projects in less time. Backed by over 25 years of structural design and engineering experience in residential solar, Solar Letters will also be incorporating artificial intelligence to further reduce the time and costs associated with solar letters and PE stamps.


If you have questions about how to reduce project timelines with automated structural letters, professional engineer (PE) stamps, and post-installation letters, contact an expert at Soler Letters.

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