By Nichola Groom
July 15 (Reuters) - The Biden administration on Thursday will roll out a tool that enables instant permitting of rooftop solar installations, addressing a major source of industry delays and possibly lowering costs for homeowners, the Energy Department said.
The Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+) platform, developed by DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, will be a standard portal for local governments to process permit applications automatically. Approvals typically take a week or more currently, and permit-related costs can account for about a third of installers' overall costs, DOE said.
Administration officials said the software will help speed adoption of rooftop solar and achieve President Joe Biden's goal of decarbonizing the U.S. electricity grid by 2035, a key pillar of his plan to address climate change. DOE has said that solar energy will need to be installed at a pace as much as five times faster than it is today to realize that goal.
"We have 3 million households today that have solar on their roofs, but the potential is so much greater," Becca Jones-Albertus, director of DOE's solar energy technologies office, said in an interview. "Having streamlined processes and an automated permitting platform that can make it faster, easier and cheaper for homeowners to go solar promises to really help expand the residential solar sector."
Residential solar has grown dramatically over the last decade, but obtaining permits through local building offices has often proved to be a "pain point" for solar companies, according to Jones-Albertus. About a third of rooftop solar installations take more than 2 weeks for the permit process, DOE said.
SolarAPP+ was tested in four communities in Arizona and California starting last year. In Tucson, the portal reduced permitting review times from an average of 20 days to zero, the agency said.
The portal performs an automatic review of permit applications, approving eligible systems instantly. Complex or ineligible systems would be re-routed for additional review.
Local governments will not have to pay for the portal, DOE said.
(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Dan Grebler)
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