County, Tucson launch app to streamline rooftop solar permitting process – City of Tucson

Pima County and the City of Tucson will relaunch the Solar One Stop as a portal to the new Solar Automated Permit Processing Plus Platform (SolarAPP+) that automates the approval of residential solar permits.  It will be open to registered contractors and provide instant permitting for rooftop solar.

“This launch is the culmination of a pilot project embarked upon last August initially to alleviate our permit volume,” said Scott Clark, Director of Tucson’s Planning and Development Services.  “It became apparent that a large percentage of the permits (over 20%) were PV (solar) Permits.  As a solar city, it became evident that adopting SolarAPP+ will also help promote the solar industry.”

More than 10 years ago, Pima County and the City of Tucson applied to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar America Cities program to establish the Solar One Stop to promote solar use in the region.  

Since then, Pima County and the City of Tucson have been some of the first and the largest jurisdictions in the United States to help DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) pilot the permitting software, created with help from the International Code Council, UL, solar industry, the Solar Foundation and others. 

“We quickly agreed to participate in the joint pilot project with the city seeing it as a win/win for both the solar industry and our departments,” said Carla Blackwell, Director of Pima County Development Services.  “More importantly, this software is free to jurisdictions.” 

Blackwell said installers will pay a small application fee when they use the software to process their permits.

Using SolarAPP+, registered solar contractors can submit their system designs for immediate code compliance review and subsequent permits. The app launches for widespread use in Pima County and Tucson on May 12 ahead of the national launch in June 2021.

“The Pima County and Tucson pilot was critical to the commercialization of the SolarAPP+. We processed over 100 permits and have already implemented 15 improvements that expand the scope of the product,” said NREL SolarAPP+ project lead Jeffrey Cook Ph.D. 

Local solar installers were invited to participate, track their projects in the application, and provide user feedback during the pilot period from December 2020 – April 2021. 

The city, county and private installers met weekly to evaluate the software through submittal of actual permits. IT staff assisted with the integration with the Pima County permit system to track permits and log inspections for the region.

At the time of launch, solar installers will be directed to a Solar One Stop website listed here. The website will provide registration and steps to apply for permits.  

Projects must meet criteria to use SolarAPP including rooftop, residential. Projects located in a flood, hillside, or historic zone must be submitted for a traditional review.   

 “We have also been working with electric providers to ready them for the change in permitting,” Clark said.

We are grateful for all the solar contractors local and national that worked with us on this pilot, Blackwell added. Thanks to the Solar Store, Technicians for Sustainability, Tesla, Titan Solar, Solar Solution Arizona, Sunbright Solar Arizona, Custom Solar and Leisure, and Net Zero Solar for helping making instant permitting via SolarAPP+ a reality in Pima County and the City of Tucson.

Source: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/pdsd/news/county-tucson-launch-app-streamline-rooftop-solar-permitting-process

May 12, 2021 Mary Sparks