San Francisco uses app to accelerate rooftop solar permitting

The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection announced the launch of a pilot program with the web-based SolarAPP+ application developed by the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to accelerate residential rooftop solar deployment.

Using the application, California licensed contractors can bypass upfront plan review and obtain an instant online electrical permit for qualifying rooftop solar installations of 10 kWdc or less on single or two-family homes.

Residential Rooftop Solar Project

The new process will help to reduce the issuance time for these electrical permits from two weeks to one day. Contractors are not needed to participate in an in-person plan review meeting at the Permit Center.

Acquiring the electrical permit for rooftop solar constitute part of the overall project costs. "By bypassing plan review and shaving two weeks off the electrical permit process, San Francisco is making it faster, easier and less expensive for homeowners to install residential rooftop solar," said Rafael Mandelman, who serves on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

"We turned on the SolarAPP+ pilot program to make it easier for San Franciscans to install rooftop solar power on their homes," said Patrick O'Riordan, Director of the Department of Building Inspection. "We believe this new tool will really shine in the City and help illuminate how easy it is for residents to transition to sustainable power."

Currently, the SolarAPP+ application is only open to rooftop solar projects. And due to safety concerns, permits for energy storage using onsite batteries continue to require submission and Fire Department review of written plans detailing fire protection and other safety features.

Below are other requirements solar projects should meet to acquire an instant permit via SolarAPP+: 

  • Generating 10kWdc or less
  • No existing onsite photovoltaic solar array
  • Installation limited to one solar module type
  • Single phase 240V services
  • Maximum of two DC strings in parallel 

Click here to get additional information on solar permitting in San Francisco.

SolarAPP+ is a free tool to help local governments streamline and automate solar installation permitting. It will support the 2021 San Francisco Climate Action Plan (CAP) and the City's goal to transition to 100% renewable electricity citywide by 2025 and 100% by 2040. 

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