How SolarAPP+ is Revolutionizing Solar Permitting in Colorado

Laptop screen with green check mark

Getting a solar permit often becomes a source of frustration. This is because there is no standardized approach to the process.

Historically, it has been left up to cities and counties to decide the process, which has led to waiting times reaching up to a whopping 11 weeks. When you’re excited to move your solar project forward, these delays can feel like a real blow.

However, there is hope on the horizon. In May 2023, Governor Polis signed bill HB23-1234 into law to streamline the process and make it faster and easier to get a solar permit.

Denver hopped right on the case by adopting SolarAPP+, which facilitates issuing a residential solar permit in as little as a mere hour!

Let’s take a look at what SolarAPP+ is and how soon we can expect it to be available in your local area.

In a Nutshell

  • Bill HB23-1234 awards grants to local governments that implement SolarAPP+.
  • SolarAPP+ is software that automates the solar permit application process.
  • Users of SolarAPP+ can get a solar permit in under an hour.
  • The software is currently limited to residential rooftop PV systems.
  • In Colorado, SolarAPP+ is available in Denver and Bennett.

What is Bill HB23-1234?

Person signing a contract

Approved on May 11, 2023, and effective since August 7, 2023, Bill HB23-1234 grants money to local governments to “implement free automated permitting and inspection software for residential solar projects.”

The funds for these grants are to be appropriated annually from the general fund. The appropriated amount for the fiscal year 2023-24 is $992,709.

Money is awarded to applicants who can demonstrate the expected costs of implementing the automated permitting process (SolarAPP+) and any local government that receives a grant is expected to implement the new process within 180 days of receiving the money.

What is SolarAPP+?

Image credit: SolarAPP+

SolarAPP+ – an acronym for Solar Automated Permit Processing – is free solar permitting software that has been designed specifically to help local governments and solar installers.

Users can access SolarAPP+ via a web portal and the system will automatically go through the plan review process and issue a permit accordingly, so a code-compliant residential photovoltaic (PV) system can be installed. 

During the process, the software performs a compliance check on contractor-supplied inputs, which ensures the proposed system is code-compliant and safe.

The software automatically updates to reflect any code changes by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). This means SolarAPP+ is always current and up-to-date without having to implement any additional IT solutions.

This scheme aims to increase the number of solar permits granted in a much faster time without governments requiring any additional manpower or resources. 

According to the SolarAPP+ 2022 performance review, it’s estimated that:

  • The software saved around 3,300 hours of staff time cumulatively in 2021.
  • It reduces average permit review times to less than one day and completes the full permitting timeline 12 – 13 business days faster than using manual permitting processes.
  • SolarAPP+-approved projects pass inspections at similar rates to other projects.

If the software approves the application, the solar permit can be issued in as little as an hour!

Who Can Get a Permit Via SolarAPP+?

SolarAPP+ logo
Image credit: SolarAPP+

Currently, SolarAPP+ is for rooftop residential systems, however, the software can approve solar systems that are up to 38.4 kW in size so long as they meet certain eligibility criteria.

For example, eligible projects are permitted to interconnect to a maximum main service rating of 44A while service disconnects and busbars can be rated for a maximum of 225A.

If a project exceeds eligibility thresholds or doesn’t meet some of the criteria, then the permit application cannot go through the SolarAPP+ software and will have to be applied for manually.

To do this, you should contact your local government to understand the manual permit application process.

While these limits may prevent an applicant from getting a permit, SolarAPP+ reckons 70% – 80% of rooftop solar projects will be able to get a permit issued immediately.

Will SolarAPP+ be Expanded to Include Commercial and Larger Solar Projects?

Solar panels in a field

Unfortunately, we don’t have the answer to this question.

SolarAPP+ was only launched in 2021, so it’s still very much a new technology and the momentum on takeup was slow to get started.

However, the USA’s assertive clean energy targets and the onward push to transition away from fossil fuels mean that more avenues are being explored to make the adoption of solar energy easier and more accessible.

We expect that once SolarAPP+ becomes the standard permit application process throughout the US, it will expand its capabilities to cope with larger or more complex solar projects.

Additionally, we hope that bill HB23-1234 will be extended to include business and commercial solar PV installations. If that happens, it will encourage SolarAPP+ to extend its capabilities much faster.

However, this may take a while, so for now, watch this space!

Where in Colorado Can I Find SolarAPP+?

Image credit: SolarAPP+

According to the SolarAPP+ website, the scheme has been rolled out across 146 communities, the majority of which are based in California.

However, other states – including Colorado – are showing “significant interest” in adopting SolarAPP+, so we expect to see the use of this system accelerate substantially over the next couple of years.

The City and County of Denver are the trailblazers for SolarAPP+ in Colorado, however, the scheme is still in what’s called “piloting” mode. This means they are still essentially “testing it out.”

So far, Denver has issued 426 permits, saving an estimated hour per application (Denver already had a speedy process in place before adopting SolarAPP+). In terms of the amount of solar approved, this equates to 2,024 kWh.

Note that SolarAPP+ has not updated its adoption stats since September 2023, so the figures noted are certain to be higher by now.

For example, we also discovered that the second area in Colorado to adopt SolarAPP+ was the town of Bennett in Adams County. The scheme is also in pilot mode here but there are no stats available to understand how many permits have been issued so far.

Image credit: SolarAPP+

It’s important to understand that applying for a permit using SolarAPP+ can be for a solar PV system or solar PV plus storage (solar batteries). 

Many areas in California are using SolarAPP+ for both PV arrays and storage but Colorado is only piloting SolarAPP+ permits for PV arrays. Therefore, the process of storing your solar system is unclear.

Want to Switch to Solar? Talk to 8760 Solar

Ground mounted solar panels against a blue sky

While SolarAPP+ may not yet be widely available across Colorado, the future looks promising for this convenient and streamlined software.

In the meantime, if you plan to go solar, then your solar developer will help you through the permit application process in your area.

At 8760 Solar, we specialize in providing solar PV systems to farms and agricultural businesses. These are generally more complex than your average residential roof system, so we’ll walk you through every step of the process – including permitting and also taking advantage of the available tax credits and incentives.

It all starts with an analysis of your farm. We can determine the right type of setup for your circumstances and then provide you with an accurate quote.

To get things started, contact our team. Text “READY” to 719 470-0254 or email us at sales@8760solar.com, and we’ll answer you right away.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Are the Solar Permit Fees in Colorado?

The fees for obtaining a solar permit were recently capped at a fixed amount and are now $500 for a residential PV system and $1,000 for a commercial PV installation.

How Fast Can SolarAPP+ Issue Solar Permits?

SolarAPP+ is a streamlined service that can issue residential rooftop solar permits in as little as an hour, provided there are no queries that need to be addressed.

Are Solar Permits Necessary?

Yes! You cannot get solar installed unless you have obtained a permit allowing you to do so. Solar permits can be obtained via your local county or city government and the process differs depending on where you live.

Where Can I Find Solar APP+ in Colorado?

Currently, in Colorado, the Solar APP+ permitting system is available in Denver and Bennett. 

I Want Commercial Solar Installed. Can I Use SolarApp+?

SolarAPP+ was designed specifically to issue permits for residential rooftop solar systems and is not suitable for commercial or complex solar applications. However, the software can approve solar PV installations that are up to 38.4 kW in size, provided certain eligibility criteria are fulfilled.

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