After Successful SolarAPP+ Challenge, DOE Surpasses Initial Goal and Sets Ambitious New Target for Communities to Increase Solar Access in Less Than Six Months
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced it has achieved its summer goal of signing up at least 125 communities for the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+) tool — a free, DOE-developed web-based platform that allows local governments to instantly approve residential solar installation permits. Now that 127 localities are signed up for SolarAPP+, DOE is announcing a new challenge: to get 60 more communities to improve their solar practices and get recognized through the DOE SolSmart program by March 2022. These efforts support the deployment of more solar energy to reach the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals of achieving 100% clean electricity by 2035 and a net-zero economy by 2050.
“Everyone has access to sunlight but not everyone has access to solar power—this Administration is committed to changing that,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE’s SolarAPP+ tool and SolSmart program are helping communities tear down barriers to clean energy and unlock the health and economic benefits of solar. We are challenging communities to increase solar deployment and providing them the tools they need to succeed.”
The cost of solar power has declined 80% over the past decade and local governments have tremendous influence over the prospects for solar energy growth. However, soft costs like unnecessary paperwork, red tape, and other burdensome requirements increase costs and discourage solar companies from moving to an area. By streamlining these requirements and taking other steps to encourage solar development, DOE is supporting communities to become “open for solar business.”
In June, DOE kicked off the Summer of Solar campaign with stops throughout the country and set a goal of getting 125 communities to sign up for SolarAPP+ by September 30. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed SolarAPP+ and will continue to engage new communities while expanding and updating the tool to include fast-tracked energy storage permitting and other resources.
DOE’s SolSmart program provides selected communities free technical assistance to help streamline processes—like planning, zoning, inspection, and training—that make it faster and easier to go solar. More than 400 communities in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have received SolSmart designations. Nine million people—about 25% of the U.S. population—live in communities with a SolSmart designation. For example:
- In West Palm Beach, Florida, SolSmart assistance helped them implement one-day permitting, resulting in a 50% increase in solar installations the next year.
- In Boise, Idaho, residential solar permits increased by almost 50% in the year following their designation.
- In Orlando, Florida, the number of solar contractors working in the state doubled since the city achieved SolSmart Gold designation.
Earlier this year, DOE announced a $10 million funding opportunity to expand SolSmart over the next five years and incorporate new solar-related technologies while emphasizing assistance for underserved communities.
In addition, DOE announced a new Solar Forecasting Prize, which will incentivize innovators to develop tools that predict how much energy solar power plants will generate days in advance, and the quarterfinalists for the Solar Desalination Prize Round 2. These prizes are part of DOE’s American-Made Challenges, a set of 25 prize competitions designed to seed new innovations in clean energy and support entrepreneurs to develop new American-made products.