California Cities and Counties Must Now Move to Instant, Online Residential Solar Licensing by 2024


Legislation by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), SB 379, the Solar Access Act, passed both houses of the California Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. The bill implements instant and online solar permits in cities and counties. This Legislation Will Significantly Reduce Approval Times for Residential Solar and Solar + Storage Systems, Reduce Permitting Costs for Local Governments and Homeowners, and Help California Meet its Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Goals . SB 379 is co-sponsored by SPUR and Environment California. Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Climate change is a serious threat, and California must accelerate its transition to clean energy in order to meet its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2045. The widespread installation of residential solar systems has helped push California toward these Goals. However, while the cost of solar technology has come down in recent years, the high costs associated with installation – including local permit and inspection requirements – have remained prohibitively expensive for many. Delays due to long wait times for permits and inspections have also hurt the implementation of solar power across the state. Automated authorization solves both of these problems; the Solar Access Act will allow California to implement a rapid and comprehensive solution.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a project of the US Department of Energy, has created a free program to help local governments license residential solar and solar + storage systems. SolarAPP+ provides a web portal that streamlines and automates permit reviews and can be easily implemented into existing local government permit software. The Solar Access Act requires cities with populations over 5,000, counties with populations over 150,000, and all cities within those counties to implement instant online permits for solar and solar+storage systems , through programs such as SolarAPP+. The requirement will come into effect from September 30, 2024 for cities with less than 50,000 inhabitants and from September 30, 2023 for cities, counties and towns and counties with more than 50,000 inhabitants. The requirement also applies to charter cities. The California Energy Commission (CEC) created the CalAPP program to roll out $20 million in grants to help cities and counties adopt automated online permitting systems like SolarAPP+.

NREL first introduced SolarAPP+ in late 2020 and slowly expanded the capabilities of the program. Many local jurisdictions, including Pleasant Hill, Sonoma County, San Jose, and Los Angeles, have already begun implementing automated permits with great success. Pleasant Hill has reduced its average permit review time to zero days (same day approval) since adopting SolarAPP+ for automated instant authorization.

“It takes far too long to get permits for clean energy,” said Senator Wiener. “For the future of our planet, we must make it easier to install solar panels and energy storage on homes across the state. The Solar Access Act will help California meet its climate goals.

News article from Senator Wiener’s office


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