The IREC-led SolSmart program is excited to release an updated version of the national Simplified Permit Guidelines for residential solar, including new guidance on permitting for residential battery storage.

These state-of-the-art guidelines are intended to help local governments develop an efficient and streamlined permit process for typical solar PV and storage projects. They will allow communities to reduce unnecessary delays and cost while ensuring compliance with nationally recognized safety standards.

“The vast majority of solar and storage permit applications are for one- and two-family residential installations. Having a systematic approach for these types of installations has the greatest benefit for local jurisdictions and solar customers,” says Bill Brooks, PE, Principal of Brooks Engineering, who led the development of the guidelines.

Improving the permit process is one of the most significant ways that local governments can encourage new solar and storage installations. That’s why the permitting and inspection (PI) is one of two foundational categories in the criteria for meeting SolSmart designation.

Local governments need a robust permitting process in place to ensure that projects are safe and effective. However, the approach varies widely among the nation’s 18,000 local jurisdictions, and in many cases the process is unnecessarily time-consuming and cumbersome. A lengthy and inefficient permit process can increase the non-hardware soft costs of solar (increasing costs about $7,000 for the average residential system), while also taking up valuable local government staff time.

The National Simplified Residential PV and Energy Storage Permit Guidelines include a step-by-step checklist for meeting electrical and structural requirements for solar and battery storage systems. The guidelines follow the requirements for solar and storage in the International Building, Residential, and Electrical Codes, published by the International Code Council. “The intention is to get local governments on the same page with solar and storage contractors to facilitate a smooth construction process,” Brooks says.

For most communities, these guidelines will cover the majority of residential solar and storage applications. They will also free up time for localities to pursue a more detailed review for larger or more specialized projects. A separate document provides technical commentary explaining the guidelines, while a third report offers a detailed analysis of the structural aspects of the guidelines. (Full text of the guidelines and supporting documents is available here.)

These simplified permit guidelines are complementary with SolarAPP+, a new automated permitting platform developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in consultation with SolSmart and other partners. SolarAPP+ is an instant online permitting system that helps local governments quickly and safely approve solar projects through an instant online process.

Local governments are encouraged to work with SolSmart’s technical assistance team to determine how they can achieve their goals by using SolarAPP+, SolSmart’s Simplified Permit Guidelines, or a combination of resources.

“Jurisdictions that for whatever reason are not permitted to use the SolarAPP+ system can use this parallel resource, which will readily use email processes for document submittal and review,” Brooks says. In addition, he notes that the SolSmart resource contains more detailed structural guidelines for local governments that require them.

The National Simplified Residential PV and Energy Storage Permit Guidelines, along with related documents, are available on the SolSmart website. The SolSmart technical assistance team is available at no cost to help communities adopt these simplified guidelines as they progress toward designation.