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California — Accela announced a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to launch SolarAPP+ (Solar Automated Permit Processing Plus), a new instant online solar permitting platform for residential solar energy and battery projects.

The software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution will be rolled out to 1,500 agencies at launch and made available at no cost to Accela’s current state and local customers and transform permitting timelines from an average of two weeks to instantaneous.

In doing so, the partnership will help bolster community resilience, promote economic recovery, meet the growing demand for clean energy, and accelerate solar permitting across the country. Accela works with over 80 percent of the largest cities in the United States and has been partnering with agencies for years to modernize solar permitting, including Charlotte County, Florida; Clark County, Nevada; the State of Oregon; and San Diego, California.

“Agencies across the country are increasingly looking for ways to speed up solar permitting to support local jobs, drive economic growth, and protect the environment,” said Tom Nieto, Chief Operating Officer at Accela. “We’re excited about partnering with NREL on this project, which aligns perfectly with our mission to deliver innovative SaaS solutions to improve efficiency, increase citizen engagement, and build thriving and resilient communities, for today and for the future.”

Residential solar and battery applications account for a growing percentage of permitting pipelines, with authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) receiving hundreds of Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System permit applications per month. With increasing numbers of local governments creating climate action plans to reduce emissions and fight climate change, the new partnership between Accela and NREL will help agencies seamlessly manage large volumes of residential solar and home battery permit applications to substantially rebalance staff workloads. Additionally, as solar is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, it will also help local governments fuel economic growth amid record budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Accela recognizes that it takes a complex ecosystem of government leaders, citizens, local businesses and technology partners to create smart cities,” said Dr. Jeffrey J. Cook, NREL’s SolarAPP+ Project Lead. “By integrating SolarAPP+, they’re demonstrating a commitment to providing cities and counties of all sizes with solutions to rebalance permitting workload and thereby unlock the immense economic opportunity available with home solar energy.”

NREL’s turnkey solution catches any code issues, typos, and other errors, and instantly returns corrections to the applicant, allowing simple projects to move forward quickly while creating more bandwidth for staff to focus on more complex or unique applications. Accela customers can integrate SolarAPP+ into their Accela Building solution to speed up review and approval processes and track permits from start to finish within a single system operating as a centralized source of truth. The system was built in collaboration with key code officials, AHJs, and the solar industry to help departments utilize resources more efficiently and effectively by digitizing traditionally paper-based and manual processes, including plan review and install approval for out-of-the-box solar and battery projects.

Funded by DOE and supported by a broad coalition of building safety and industry partners, SolarAPP+ allows cities and counties to streamline and standardize permitting requirements for home solar and battery systems to simplify and expedite instant home solar permitting across the country. Pima County, Arizona is an Accela customer utilizing SolarAPP+ to further expedite its solar permitting process.

“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. “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.”

Today’s announcement builds on Accela’s commitment to creating modern solutions to help agencies stay ahead amid an evolving environmental and civic landscape. Accela’s secure and flexible SaaS solutions equip governments with the resources to quickly respond to evolving community needs, increase efficiency, and ensure resilience to benefit 275 million citizens globally.

Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has over a decade of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

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