Automated Permitting for Solar Energy Systems
SB 379: Residential Solar Energy Systems: Permitting
As 2022 winds down, CALBO’s legislative team is gearing up for the start of the new legislative session which will officially kick off January 1, 2023. Despite the excitement of a new legislative session for CALBO, the start of a new session brings forward the official enactment of California’s new laws that will impact your building departments. Before the new year begins, CALBO’s legislative team will provide several articles to provide guidance to our membership about some of the new changes to state law that will impact your departments. This is the first installment of our “Guide to Changes in State Law” and we hope our members will follow along in this journey as our members look for guidance in an ever-changing political landscape.
California continues to push efforts to address climate change in the state. As CALBO members know, every year the legislature introduces dozens of bills on electric vehicle charging stations, renewable energy sources, and other electrification measures to respond to climate change. CALBO supports these efforts, but they must be done in a safe and feasible manner. One of the bills that was passed in 2022 sets new requirements for permit review of solar energy systems. Senate Bill 379 requires local jurisdictions to adopt an online permitting system for residential solar energy systems. Here are some resources and specifics on the new law that will impact your local jurisdiction in the next two years.
Specifically, depending upon the population size of your county, SB 379 requires the adoption of an online platforms that can verify code compliance and issues permits in real time for a residential solar energy system that is no larger than 38.4 kilowatts. This requirement must be met by any jurisdiction located in a county with a population size of 150,000 or more and city size of 50,000 or more by September 30, 2023, while smaller cities with a population of 50,000 or less must comply with this by September 30, 2024. For counties with a population size of less than 150,000 and cities with a population size of less than 5,000 are exempt from the requirements of SB 379.
SB 379 also specifies reporting requirements and compliance acknowledgment in the newly signed law. Jurisdictions will have to report annually the number of solar permits reviewed with the technology to the California Energy Commission (CEC) a year after an automated permitting system is adopted by local jurisdictions until June 30, 2034. Jurisdictions must self-certify compliance with this section when applying for funds with the CEC after the applicable date is reached in the bill.
To help promote compliance with this mandate, CALBO’s legislative team worked with the CEC to establish a $20 million grant program for jurisdictions to adopt these automated permitting systems. Jurisdictions may qualify for up to $40,000 depending on your jurisdiction’s population size to help fund these efforts. The money can be used to cover subscription costs, training, and necessary staff time to adopt an online permitting system such as SolarAPP+. To apply for the grant program please visit the California Automated Permit Processing (CalAPP) page on the CEC website here: https://www.energy.ca.gov/programs-and-topics/programs/california-automated-permit-processing-program-calapp
SolarAPP+ is a free software for local jurisdictions to use that was developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in consultation with UL Solutions and the International Code Council to help streamline and improve plan review for residential solar energy systems. This software provides a safe and standardized plan review mechanism that can run compliance checks and process building permit approvals for eligible rooftop solar systems. CALBO has been notified by NREL and the developers that your respective jurisdiction uses this technology to inform them about any implementation issues that may occur with this technology. If your jurisdiction has concerns and issues with this platform, please email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can get ahead of the needed changes before the adoption of these permitting systems become law. As building officials, our goal is to protect the public from harm in the built industry so if there are any safety concerns or issues impacting implementation, please let us know as soon as possible.
Here are some resources regarding SB 379 that will be of use to your departments:
CEC Bulletin on SB 379: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/CNRA/bulletins/33822f7
CalAPP Grant Application and Information: https://www.energy.ca.gov/programs-and-topics/programs/california-automated-permit-processing-program-calapp