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For Immediate Release

Sonoma County adopts automated permitting tool to lower the cost of installing solar

Santa Rosa,CA | December 01, 2021

This week, Sonoma County became the first county in California to launch SolarAPP+, an automated application for permitting new residential rooftop solar and storage systems. SolarAPP+ will lower costs and expedite solar installations, encouraging property owners to invest in generating renewable and sustainable energy.

Lowering the cost and increasing the speed of rooftop solar installation will have a significant impact on a system’s cost.  The installation currently costs twice as much in the United States as in countries such as Australia or Germany, despite similar wages and equipment costs. The difference is caused in part due to installation costs like interest on home equity loans and other costs incurred while waiting for applications to be processed. For a solar customer, these added expenses can amount to as much as $5,000 for a typical residential solar system (PDF).

SolarAPP+ helps governments and providers cut rooftop solar permitting costs. Developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy, SolarAPP+ provides a web-based portal that streamlines and automates permit reviews. The app easily integrates into existing local government permitting software and is free for local jurisdictions.

“The launch of SolarAPP+ is not just a win for the thousands of Sonoma County residents who have thought about getting rooftop solar but have been concerned about the soft costs involved,” said Lynda Hopkins, Chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “It is also a win for our ability to meet the North Bay's climate adaptation and resiliency needs and generate thousands of good local jobs.”

The move to make solar more affordable to all communities was applauded by state leaders as an important step in the local and national fight against climate change.

“I congratulate Sonoma County for leading the way on critical resiliency initiatives like SolarAPP+ in the wake of the climate crisis we face,” said state Sen. Mark McGuire, D-Healdsburg, who chairs the Senate Government and Finance Committee. “This year I was pleased to support a climate budgetary package that included $20 million to streamline local solar and storage permitting, which will allow more Californians to make their homes climate-resilient and create thousands of good-paying jobs.”

“Rooftop solar and battery storage systems not only save money to customers but can save lives in an emergency power shutoff situation,” said state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, who serves on the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications and Joint Committee for Emergency Management. “With the launch of SolarAPP+, Sonoma County is poised to lead the way in solar and storage adoption, and I look forward to other North Bay jurisdictions following its lead.”

The number of SolarAPP+ adopters is projected to dramatically expand in the coming year on the heels of the California state budget, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on July 13, including $20 million for technical assistance targeted for local jurisdictions planning to adopt expedited permitting software such as SolarAPP+.

More information: Sonoma County's SolarAPP+ program

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