How to Use California’s $20M Grant Program for Solar Permitting

August 23, 2022 – OpenGov

In addition to the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act which will create tax credits and rebates for individuals to switch to renewable energy sources, the State of California takes their own climate initiatives a bit further.

The California Energy Commission recently launched the California Automated Permit Processing Program (CalAPP), a non-competitive grant program for cities and counties to automate permitting for solar energy

In this blog, how to utilize California’s $20M grant program, in two easy steps:

What is the California Automated Permit Processing Program (CalAPP)?

A total of $20M was appropriated for this program in the 2021 state budget to help fund the transition to renewable energy. Grants range from $40,000 to $100,000, depending on population. The program is accepting applications through May 1, 2023. 

Related: How The City of Benicia, CA Built Its Solar Permit Application

How can my agency use the grant money?

According to the program website, there are several categories of expenditures that are allowed in the CalAPP program. The program website lists the following: 

  • Training events for staff and local installers;
  • Maintenance costs, which can include adding support for permitting of energy storage paired with solar energy systems;
  • Up to three years of subscription costs for a software database that supports the newly adopted platform.

OpenGov Citizen Services is a qualifying permitting software. We’re excited to share that we not only have an existing partnership with the National Renewable Energy Lab, to provide automated solar permitting that would qualify for the CalAPP grants, but also that the City of Benicia, CA, has already established its permitting process for solar panel installers.

With this new process, permits are immediately issued after the application has been submitted and fees are paid, all online, without the need for plan reviewers to review diagrams.

Find top tips from Benicia here. You’ll see that they have a simple, two-step process for applicant installers:

Step 1: Installers apply for pre-approval on SolarAPP+.

Step 2: Applicants visit the City’s permit center powered by OpenGov to complete and pay for the solar permit. 

As soon as the pre-approval code is entered and the permit fees are paid, the permit is automatically issued and the contractor can proceed with the solar panel installation.

Solar Permitting with OpenGov

California communities can easily replicate this permitting process with SolarAPP+ and OpenGov if departments are ready to collaborate. Jonathan Schelin, Management Analyst from Benicia who built this process explained that it only took 4-5 hours to set up a SolarAPP+ account and to create the workflow for the permit center powered by OpenGov.

After that, “It took a few days of testing and a few months of piloting the new process with the top installers before launching it to everyone.”

Jonathan remarked, “Overall, I can only hope all adoptions of new processes/technology go as smoothly as this did. The keys to success were constant communication with the installer community for testing, and making sure all stakeholders were aware of changes and able to immediately provide feedback.”

With the new CalAPP grant, California cities and counties now have access to the funding to support their renewable energy goals. And at OpenGov, we’re ready to help. 

To learn more about OpenGov’s permitting and licensing solution, request your personal demo here. More information about the CalAPP grant can be found on the California Energy Commission’s website.

To learn more about OpenGov’s permitting and licensing solution, request your personal demo here.

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