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San Francisco makes it easier to install solar panels—for 30 homes

Rooftop solar panels
Rooftop solar panels | Courtesy California Public Utilities Commission | Source: CPUC

A new San Francisco pilot program could reduce the permit approval time for rooftop solar panels from two weeks to one day, the city announced Friday.

The new program, SolarAPP+, would achieve this time savings by using an online portal that would keep licensed contractors from having to visit the city’s Permit Center.

Launched by the city’s Department of Building Inspection (DBI), SolarAPP+ would apply to rooftop solar installations of 10 kilowatts direct current (kWdc) or less on single or two-family homes that do not already have solar arrays, among other qualifiers.

The electronic application tool would be for licensed contractors only, rather than homeowners themselves. It’s available only to the first 30 applicants to qualify and use the SolarAPP+ web application.

The pilot program was developed in support of the city’s Climate Action Plan 2021 and the goal to transition to 100% renewable electricity citywide by 2025 and 100% renewable energy by 2040.

SolarAPP+ was developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory as a free tool to help local governments streamline and automate solar installation permitting.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman expressed his support for the program in a press release, saying that lowering costs and speeding along construction is key to increase sustainable development.

“By bypassing plan review and shaving two weeks off the electrical permit process, San Francisco is making it faster, easier and less expensive for homeowners to install residential rooftop solar,” Mandelman said.

DBI director Patrick O’Riordan said in the press release that he was excited about the launch of the new program.

“We believe this new tool will really shine in the City and help illuminate how easy it is for residents to transition to sustainable power,” O’Riordan said.

The new web-based application is only for rooftop solar panels, and permits for on-site backup batteries for solar systems will still require written plans to be submitted to and reviewed by the San Francisco Fire Department.

You can learn more about solar permitting in San Francisco here.