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Quicker solar permits likely on the way in California

New law will speed up the state’s clean energy transition by requiring online solar permitting in the state’s biggest counties

The latest 9/20/22: The Solar Access Act has been signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom. The law sets deadlines for implementing online permitting in September of 2023, but hopefully it won’t take that long before residents of the state’s most populous counties start seeing a quicker and easier process.

The suspense over new solar net metering policies in California continues to draw lots of attention, and for good reason. But while we wait for the state’s Public Utilities Commission to make a decision on net metering, other policy changes are in progress that should make the state more solar-friendly.

Last week, the California legislature passed Senate Bill 379, the Solar Access Act. The goal of the Solar Access Act is to speed California’s transition to clean energy by streamlining the solar installation process. It will require the state’s largest counties – all those with more than 150,000 residents – to implement online “instant” permitting for residential solar and solar-plus-storage projects.

For solar installers and homeowners going solar, the “paperwork” aspects of a solar project can be a major source of headaches and delays. The Solar Access Act would reduce bureaucratic barriers to solar adoption in the Golden State by mandating that the most populous counties use a web-based platform like the Department of Energy-developed SolarAPP+. Early this year, the Department of Energy encouraged local governments to adopt SolarAPP+ or similar platforms as one of the best ways to promote solar energy in their communities. Several local jurisdictions in California and Arizona are already using online permitting platforms; the Department of Energy found that jurisdictions using instant permitting saw solar installs completed an average of two weeks faster. Pleasant Hill, California, in the east San Francisco Bay area, has achieved same-day approvals for solar projects since it began to use SolarAPP+.

The Solar Access Act will now go to the desk of California Governor Gavin Newsom. We’ll update this when the governor signs the legislation into law, as it’s expected he will. Stay tuned to our blog for more news on solar policy developments in California and across the nation.

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