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Permitting Options for Solar Installations During the COVID-19 Outbreak

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COVID-19 Solar Permitting and Inspection

Supply information on the current status of solar permit processing and inspection in jurisdictions you serve. 

Submit a Permitting & Inspection Status Report

As a result of COVID-19 “social distancing” practices, the solar industry is seeing permitting authorities around the country move application processing online as a way to allow remote work. Responses to our survey can provide some direct insight from companies and individuals in those locations. Depending on state or local directives for continuation of energy-related construction or building work, here are some broader examples we’ve collected in case you are looking for additional resources that will allow solar and other critical appliance installations to continue. 

Survey Results

Extra Safety Measures for Installation Crews

Guidance for Solar Installers, EPCs and O&M Service Providers on Managing Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Installers are implementing social distancing protocols and other best practices to minimize contact and proximity between members of installation crews, their customers and AHJs. 

To Enable Remote Building Permit Approvals Here Are Some Options to Consider

 

Application Processing and Payment

 

Move application processing to email or online: Set up a phone line and email alias to organize questions and applications centrally or ask around to see if other teams have a platform you could jump into. Use phone and video chat to discuss comments with applicants. Using photos, email, cloud-based file sites and electronic applications will reduce the number of physical files and help you organize the permit queue efficiently. 

Move solar application fees online: Allow payment online or over the phone. If online payment isn’t possible, then accept payment by mail or drop box and block inspections until it is received AND/OR allow fee pre-payment based on the volume expectations, which can also help with your headcount planning. 

  • If you don’t currently have an online payment system another department like your property tax collection team might or we can help you find a solution!

Consider a one-page permitting application: Determine your most pertinent questions, so that a quick review for the compliant answers can lead to simplified, online approval.

One-page permit examples:

Inspections

Grant conditional building/electrical permit: By filing the application and paying the fee, a solar installer can receive the permit to build the system as long as it complies with all applicable rules and regulations.

Conduct plan checks and inspections post-install: Conduct plan checks and building/electrical inspections after installation.

Benefits of this approach: 

  • Same safety and design protocols followed before the system is activated, just in a different order and without emphasis on applications that are not actually installed.
  • Installers take risk that they are out of compliance, which would be flagged by inspectors.
  • Permitting authorities can keep working by email and maintain vital fee revenue.
  • Solar workers can continue working and installing systems.

Shift in-person inspections to photos and/or Google Hangouts, Skype, or Facetime: Solar companies (not homeowners) can go into the field and show you everything you need to see via photo or live video or recordings.

Coming Soon: SolarAPP web portal to automatically screen applications and issue photovoltaic system permits.

The SolarAPP coalition has been working for two years to develop this portal with the goal to foster residential solar adoption by making it easier for cities, counties, and utilities to quickly and safely approve residential solar projects for install and operation on the grid. Our first project is led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), who is working with an all-star team of experts to build an online permit platform that will enable automated compliance reviews and instant permit approval.

To learn more about NREL’s online solar permitting tool join NREL’s webinar on April 14th, 2020 10 AM - 11 AM PT.

With increased need for the SolarAPP application, we hope to accelerate and expand access to more AHJs for the beta release of the product in the next few weeks.

Faster work requires more resources. These times are challenging but anything helps. You can donate to this effort here.

More Resources:

NREL SolarAPP page

SEIA SolarAPP background

Donate to support SolarAPP

Permitting best practices from our partners at SolSmart

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