SolarAPP Permitting Platform Kickoff Meeting

SolarAPP Permitting Platform Kickoff Meeting


Hello everybody. Thanks again for participating in this introductory
webinar. This is Jeff Cook speaking from the National
Renewable Energy Laboratory. This webinar is introducing some of the work
we’re doing or about to kick off here around streamlining permitting using a new solar
automated permit processing platform. And so we have a slate of speakers that we’re
going to go through today to talk through some of this innovative work that we’re
doing. And so I’m happy to have you. We’re going to start by going through some
of the logistics of this presentation. So the first being a little bit of housekeeping
in terms of where we are with the webinar. The first thing I want to say is that the
webinar will be recorded and the slides and the recording will be available after the
webinar after this meeting. So stay tuned for that. If you are experiencing audio issues we ask,
we suggest that you switch from using the computer’s audio to a phone, a landline
in particular usually is the best quality and so we would suggest that. If you’re still having challenges, you might
consider contacting GoToWebinar’s support line listed here. Or alternatively you can also wait for the
recording of the webinar at the conclusion of this presentation. If you do have a question we ask that you
submit those questions using either the questions or the chat box panel in the interface as
you can see usually on the right hand side of your screen. At the end of this presentation we will answer
as many questions as possible bearing in mind that of course this is a kickoff and so there
may be some specific questions that we cannot answer at this time but will actively be following
up with you to get answers to those questions as we lead off with this project. So just a little bit on the webinar structure. So first we’re going to do an introduction
to sort of the lab for those of you that aren’t familiar with us. And also talk about the real crux of the reason
why we’re here which is digging through some of the solar soft cost challenges of
which permitting, inspection and interconnection are included. And so just contextualizing the work here
and why we’re all on this, we’re conducting or completing this work here at the lab. Then we’ll dig into the overview of the
SolarAPP project itself. And that will really get into the nuts and
bolts of what it is we’re doing here at the lab, our partners in this process, what
the timeline is and the milestones related to the project and most importantly how everyone
on the call can get involved at the ground floor to help shape what we’re doing here
at the lab. And then we’ll move to a question and answer
roundtable with a set of four innovative cities that we’re really happy to have on the call
today. Those four cities are going to provide us
a lot of insight into some of the innovation that they’re doing in this permitting and
inspection space. They are really at the cutting edge of the
solar market right now. And so they have a lot of great insights into
how they’ve navigated a world with a lot more solar deployments in their jurisdictions
and still results in safe and compliant installed systems. So really looking forward to speaking with
those cities about some of their experience. They’ll also provide us some perspective
on how they’re going to be helping move the SolarAPP process forward. And then we’ll transition from that point
to really digging into the SolarAPP development process. So part of that we’ll be talking a little
bit about software development. But really the heart of that is what are the
permitting requirements that we would include in this final permitting portal. And so we’ve developed a set of work groups
to help us big into what those requirements will be. And we’ll very much looking forward to talking
about how you can get involved in each of those groups. And then finally we’ll end with a wrap up
and a potential to answer some of your questions and next steps again on how folks can get
involved at the ground floor of what we’re doing today. So with that we can just jump right into the
heart of the presentation and start with an introduction to the lab itself. So we are the National Renewable Energy Lab
as I mentioned. We are located in Golden, Colorado. There’s an image in the background there
or one of our two campuses. There’s over 1,800 employees here at the
lab in addition to a variety of early career researchers as well supporting our mission. We have over 750 partnerships to basically
find innovative pathways to move technology from the lab to the market. This is one such partnership and we’ll get
into why the SolarAPP one of our flagship partnerships as we get into that process. But we also operate our campus as a living
laboratory where we test out a variety of technologies, not just PV panels as you can
see in this background of this picture here but also wind turbines at another site, energy
storage, microgrids as well as loads within the home, etcetera and our energy systems
integration facilities. So that’s a sense of the national lab itself. We have four key pillars of research here
we do at the lab. Of course renewable power which we’re most
known for. But there’s a lot of use cases for renewable
energies in particular or alternative energy and other spaces or end uses. And so here you can see we also do a great
deal of work in sustainable transportation and energy efficiency. And then I mentioned previously we have our
energy systems integration facility where we do a lot of desk research or laboratory
research on making sure that all of these new innovative technologies can work together. But we also do a lot of analysis on that in
the real world in terms of when we commercialize these products and see how they function in
their, in that commercial setting. So let’s dig into kind of that first pillar
of the national renewable energy lab’s research. And that is renewable power and in particular
solar which is the basis for the work we’re talking about today. And so NREL has done a great deal of research
into the costs of residential solar which is our focus today as well as other sectors
in solar cost in particular. But here we’re going to talk about residential
solar. So the national renewable energy lab a couple
years ago did a roadmap for achieving the US Department of Energy’s solar energy technology
office SunShot target for reaching 5 cents per kilowatt hour for residential solar by
2030. And you can see back in 2017 on our quarter
one benchmark we were seeing costs around 15 cents a kilowatt hour so significantly
higher than that 5 cent target. And so the roadmap really identified pathways
to achieve those cost reduction targets that I mentioned earlier. And so what we found in our modeling is you
can get there pretty – you can almost get there or get there in our visionary setting
or our visionary models. But that requires a lot of cost reduction
and you won’t just get there from cost reduction in terms of PV modules and inverters, what
we call the hard costs of solar. Instead you’re going to need to find cost
savings in the context of soft costs, everything but the hardware. And those are things like customer acquisition,
permitting, inspection and interconnection, overhead labor, a variety of other cost categories. And so we identified that that was a key need. And we’re not the only ones that have concluded
that. We have a variety of partners on this project
which we’ll talk about as well that have identified in particular permitting inspection
and interconnection soft cost as a key barrier to really meeting those 2030 solar targets. The first being – sorry. We do model those direct costs which are things
more like permit application fees, the time to actually fill out a permit. But we don’t model very well the indirect
costs and those are costs related to cancellation. So there can be significant cost if a customer
goes through the whole permitting process where they get the system designed, customer
outreach, a signed plan, etcetera and then they ultimately back out or cancel and potentially
because permitting delays have extended so long that they just want to get over with,
just end the project or move on with a roof replacement without PV or some other reason
they cancel. And that can have significant costs or add
significant costs to other successful installs. And so the idea is how can we streamline these
processes, reduce customer cancelation rates while also ensuring that the systems installed
are safe and code compliant. And so that leads us to some of the work we’re
doing today and that we’ll talk about. So first NREL is kind of attacking this question
of permitting and inspection and interconnection via two pathways, analysis, what we call the
analysis pathway and then the software pathway. And first I’ll just briefly mention the
analysis side and make everyone aware. We’re working with our data partners and
we’ll talk about them. They’re the same partners we have on the
fuller app platform discussion so you’ll learn a bit more about them shortly. But we’re working with our data partners
to collect process, permit process requirements, interconnection requirements, related cycle
times, how long it takes to get from permit submitted to permit approved as well as through
permission to operate from the utility and associated cancellation rates across all municipalities
within which our participant, participating data partners operate. And with all that data we’re going to try
to demonstrate how PII process requirements correlate with delays and potential cancellations
and then also increase transparency nationwide into how these practices compare so that peer
cities can take a look at their different processes and see how they compare and potentially
make changes based on that. the other side of the house is where we’re
going to take all of this information we’re gaining from this analysis and help it feed
into or have that feed into our process to build the SolarAPP. Right? So we have a great understanding of a variety
of best practices and innovations happening in this space across the country and we’re
going to build this solar platform, the SolarAPP itself to allow for more streamlined online
and instant permitting. And we’re going to talk at length now about
how we’re going to get there. And that’s what is the SolarAPP? So we’re going to start with that. So before we jump into the nuts and bolts
of it I do want to take a step back and just mention what’s happened before the SolarAPP. So our partners as well as the lab, the US
Department of Energy, a variety of others have understood that permitting, inspection
and interconnection can cause delays and challenges in the install process of residential solar. And we’re not ignoring that fact or starting
from scratch. The importance is a lot of work has gone into
these areas and we’re building on that work. In particular in 2018 our SolarAPP, basically
the SolarAPP campaign was launched with some of our partners announcing it at the solar
power international a few years ago. And really, the goal was to build on what
we’ve already done to continue to reduce permitting and inspection processes while
streamlining residential solar and storage soft costs nationwide. And so there’s three key priorities of this
campaign. And the first is with the innovation particularly
in storage and other infrastructure and equipment that there’s a continual need for improved
training and technical assistance for both code officials as well as installers and other
members or stakeholder sin the industry. And so that’s a key pillar. A second pillar is to develop more certification
processes or design standards around particular equipment and making sure that that is understood
or standardized across the country. And then what we’re going to talk about
today is the third pillar and that is to deploy more online permitting for solar and how do
we get there. And that’s really the heart of the SolarAPP
project is how do we get more AHJs or cities. You’ll hear me use the term AHJ. We mean authorities having jurisdiction and
that’s what we mean with that. You’ll hear that throughout the rest of
this presentation. But the idea is how do we get more cities
and other jurisdictions to get online for solar? And that is what the SolarAPP project is all
about. And so the SolarAPP campaign started about
two years ago and we just this past September got funding from the US Department of Energy
office of technology transitions in partnership with the solar energy technologies office
to actually make this a reality, the SolarAPP make that a reality. In addition to the $695,000.00 that’s provided
from the department of energy we have industry partners that are providing matching cost
share dollar for dollar up to that $695K resulting in about a $1.3 million project to really
move the SolarAPP process forward. So our partner, our in kind contributors are
led by Sunrun and Tesla and then followed by Tesla, the solar energy industry association
Vivint and then as well as the institute of building safety and technology and sun power. We’ll talk a little bit too about what the
institute is doing in terms of inspection software a bit later in this presentation. But it’s an important addition or complimentary
piece of software to what we’re doing here with the app. Then we have a variety of partners, some listed
here, others that are not. And I apologize for that. We can only put so many names on the slide. But there’s a variety of other folks providing
less formal support and that is providing technical feedback throughout the process
as well as providing their expertise in terms of permitting requirements and in addition
to outreach to potential adopters going forward. And the Solar Foundation as I mentioned or
not mentioned was a key entity in launching the SolarAPP campaign itself a couple of years
ago. And they will be continuing that work in addition
to their smart activities as well. So let’s talk a little bit about what the
SolarAPP is actually going to do once it’s finalized. And so the first key goal is that it will
provide a flexible web based PV permitting tool for residential systems. And then in addition to that the ability for
a contractor and an AHJ to be in one online platform at the same time reviewing and approving
permits. It will enable standardization of permitting
processes like I’d mentioned and will further mention later on is there’s a variety of
best practices around how we permit PV today. And we’re going to be leveraging all of
that to help put it in, develop our permit requirement that would then represent the
best in class based on current code today. Most importantly the application is going
to evaluate – or sorry. The fuller app will evaluate individual permit
applications for safety and code compliance not allowing a contractor to submit an incomplete
permit application nor an application that is noncompliant or would result in a safety
violation at inspection. And so that allows for instant approval given
that the SolarAPP has already done the compliance check. And we’ll talk more about how that would
actually function going forward. And then finally as I mentioned we’re focused
specifically on solar right now. But we are fully understanding that this is
an evolving market and that we are going to be updating this application going forward
to include things like storage and then potentially expanding to other market segments or to incorporate
more residential PV permits than we would in this existing system. Now I wanted to mention that this SolarAPP
is not out of the blue. We’ve actually had a lot of innovation across
the country of which we have two cities listed here, Las Vegas and Los Angeles that we’re
going to be able to hear more from in the Q&A session of this webinar. But suffice it to say that there’s a variety
of online permitting processes for solar already today and we’re building on those. The Las Vegas and Los Angeles models are exemplified
here and show just a bit of variation. Las Vegas requires project address, capacity,
payment structures. And then Los Angeles requires those same things
but also some additional requirements around or inputs around the plans of the project
and things like that. Those aren’t – those are just two examples. There’s a lot of innovation in permitting
that we hope to capture and include within the SolarAPP and look to a lot of the attendees
on this webinar to provide us some of that perspective. And then we’ll also talk about some of the
simplified inspection processes that have been incorporated from cities in our Q&A. So we’re building on all of that work and
completing the SolarAPP project in five more or less sequential steps as listed here. And I bolded the first two because those are
the ones that we need the most input on now to build out the process. And so the first being developing the permitting
requirements and identifying customizable permitting features. Right? So that’s this big piece about how do we
figure out exactly what’s a code compliant and safe system within the SolarAPP and what
features may need to be adjustable, things like snow loading for example by an AHJ. At the same time we’re developing some of
the software for the SolarAPP. Basically as you can see sort of you need
foundational things like a login page, a contractor account, an AHJ account, project dashboards,
a variety of just basic pages that we’re building in parallel while we work on the
permitting requirements that would then be the heart of software application. And then of course we’ll be working on platform
testing and commercialization going forward and we’ll talk a little bit more about how
you can get involved in those on the next slide. Digging into this a bit more in terms of what
the long term plan is, this software process will be completed over two fiscal years, fiscal
year ’20 and ’21. After our two year process we’ll be transitioning
the final SolarAPP platform to a third party host. Or at some point in which we agree with the
third party host on how that transition will occur. But in short after those, it will occur at
some point after those two years where NREL may remain as a subcontractor on this work
to continue as an unbiased third party expert in terms of determining what the permitting
requirement can and should be, vetting those with the market and then ensuring that they’re
input properly into applications itself. Probably most importantly for the attendees
on this call, the SolarAPP will be offered to AHJs free of charge. So anyone interested in using the SolarAPP
can use it and that funding structure is based off of the fact installers will be charged
a fee for permitted systems to cover the cost to both keep the system, to maintain the system. As you all know code years come and go and
this platform will need to be updated to accommodate variations in code as well as innovations
in equipment. And that will all be handled by the permitted
system. And now I wanted to pause here as well and
say for those of you that are already partially online for permitting but not for solar and/or
you’re already online for permitting and for solar, this application may still be a
value to you as well. We’re going to open source code, or sorry,
we’re going to open source the code, excuse me – such that and license it with third
party permitting software platform providers such that they can adopt the SolarAPP requirements
into their application that will be licensed with that software provider. And then you can actually use or adopt it
within their platform without having to have two competing platforms to conduct permitting
in your location while also not having to address the need for updating the application
per variations or updates in code. So wanted to mention that here as well. Also wanted to talk a little bit about the
project timeline. As I mentioned this gives you a little bit
better sense in terms of the process in terms of when things will be happening. And really between now and March 31st we’re
developing a preliminary set of permit requirements. So like I said there’s all sorts of best
practices out there in terms of what cities are doing. NREL and our partners are collecting all of
that. We’re going to put it into what we call
more or less a straw proposal to – and then we will provide that for review and feedback
from AHJs and other partners to start not necessarily start from scratch but have a
better platform for which our partners can review and provide feedback on how we might
improve that set of preliminary requirements for the ultimate finalization and inclusion
in this SolarAPP by the end of September of this year. So between now, the holidays and September
30th we’ll be reaching out to a bunch of AHJs as well as other partners to get you
involved in helping us develop that preliminary set of permit requirements and vert them going
forward. And then you can see in the latter half of
the timeline we’ll be finalizing a short list of long term hosts in a year. If anyone is interested in that please reach
out to me as well. And then finally we’ll be doing beta testing
as late as March 31st of ’21 and then we’ll be launching the formal SolarAPP as a commercially
viable product by the end of our two year project. Some of the beta testing for the SolarAPP
will be happening much sooner than that. So if anyone is interested in helping us test
that please do let us know. Which gets us to the how can you get involved
which is an important piece for us here at the lab because there’s a lot of moving
parts to this and things that we’d like from you all in this call. So the first, I put my contact information
here. If anything on this call is of interest to
you, you have any questions or anything of the like you can email me at this link. In addition as we mentioned the webinar will
be posted online and you can find my information online as well. But in addition what do we need here? There’s a variety of important sort of action
items. The first – and we’ll talk about this
in a bit is the permitting guidebook. We’re really interested in what guidebooks
you’re currently using to inform your solar permitting. Please email those to us so we have a comprehensive
list. In addition if you’re interested in helping
us develop the permitting requirements that we’ll ultimately include in the SolarAPP
either as a work group participant which you’ll hear about shortly or as just a technical
reviewer of those requirements once they’re actually put out and you can go ahead and
review what we have compared to what you have and give us feedback as to why you might suggest
we have revisions to those requirements. And then finally as we get the requirements
included in the permitting portal we really do need software testers and importantly program
piloters. And we’ll talk a bit about we already have
one city on our Q&A table, roundtable that we’ll talk with that’s interested in helping
us pilot this or at least test it in their jurisdiction. So if that interests you as well we’re happy
to include you in that. Which brings us now to the roundtable with
innovative cities. So as I mentioned this is a Q&A portion or
the Q&A portion of our webinar. And I mentioned as well that we’ll have
four cities on the call with us today. I’ll be moderating this again but we’ll
go ahead and allow each of these cities to introduce themselves to you in a second. And we’ll start with Las Vegas and work
our way to Los Angeles, Modesto and North Las Vegas. But we’re really happy they all were able
to join today because they all provide some interesting perspective on solar permitting,
some of the issues they faced and in some cases why online permitting works for them
and why other cities on this call might want to consider joining us in being a partner
on this really interesting project. And it looks like I’m going to now unmute
my panelists here. And bear with us as we just do a little bit
of logistics getting everyone on the line here. But I’m going to start with Yolanda from
Las Vegas. And Yolanda I’ve unmuted you and hopefully
you’ve unmuted on your end. Would you mind introducing yourself, your
city, a little bit of how the solar market looks in Las Vegas. Yolanda. Yes. I’m here. Can you hear me? We can. Ok. This is Yolanda Palomo, city of Las Vegas
building and safety, a process review coordinator. We’ve had online permitting for residential
solar since 2017. And this year we’ve issued almost 4,000
permits for residential installs online. And it’s been very successful. We originally decided to add this to our online
options because the demand was so great. At one point we were issuing over 5,000 permits
a year back in 2015. And it was a huge demand on staffing. So that’s why we put it online. And thanks for that intro Yolanda. I’m really excited to dig into some of that
as we get into the questions. And now I’m going to pass it to you Nabil
to introduce himself in Las Vegas. Nabil are you there? Hello. Hi Nabil. We can hear you. Oh ok. This is Nabil Maalouf for the city of Los
Angeles. Hey. Sorry Nabil. You’re a bit muffled though. If you’re using a headset you might just
want to go to the phone itself. Let’s see if I can switch to telephone. How does it sound now? It’s about the same. So maybe just yell a little bit and then we’ll
be ok. I’m city of Los Angeles building and safety. And we have been using the online permitting
for PV system probably close to five years. And probably 70 or 75 percent of our permits
are done online. It’s been a great experience and taking
off some of the work on the counter. Still doing a lot of work at the counter but
the PV online has been very helpful for them. Yeah. Thanks for that Nabil. And yeah, still a bit quiet. But yeah, so when we have you chime in on
the Q&A hopefully you can just speak up a little bit or maybe – yeah, we’ll try
that. Or you could maybe in the process of introducing
our next few speakers you could try calling in again possibly as well. But either way. We could still hear you so that was good. And I really appreciate Los Angeles being
on the call as well as being with Las Vegas a leader in terms of going online for permitting. And I think you mentioned some 70 – 75 percent
of your PV permits go through the online process. And so then now I’m going to move over or
pass it over to Geoff Simmons from Modesto. Geoff? Hi Geoff. Hey there. We can hear you. Can you hear me ok? Yeah. All right. My name is Geoff Simmons. Currently with city of Modesto, formerly with
city of Stockton. So just recently moved to Modesto. And so we’re exploring moving into online
permitting. We’re not currently doing it. But in Stockton I did some innovative things
to try and shorten the time of solar permitting. So we did over the counter same day permitting. But what I saw as both an inspector and then
going into plan review and now as a deputy building official I saw this ramping up like
Yolanda talked about. I saw this massive ramping up of solar permitting. It was going up threefold every year for quite
a few years. So in Stockton we went from 303 permits to
607, then 912 and then 2,678. So that was over a four year period. So when I saw that happening I knew government
is not really fast to respond. And so we had to come up with creative ways
to try to streamline the process. So we did things like making solar master
plans and education to ______ to allow the permit process to be quicker. And like I say now that I’m here in Modesto
we’re moving into online permitting. So when I heard about the SolarAPP I was very
willing to jump on board and give that a try. Yeah. Thanks Geoff. That’s really great background and shows
how permitting can really scale – the deployment can really scale requiring a lot more permit
review than a city might be ready for or has the capacity to deal with. And then I know we had some audio issues earlier
but we’re going to try it anyway. So our fourth speaker here is Valeria Evans
from North Las Vegas. Valerie can you unmute? I can hear you. And we can hear you. Fantastic. Yay. Would you mind introducing yourself? Hi. I’m Valerie Evans. I’m the North Las Vegas building official. And we in North Las Vegas do not do online
permitting at this point. However we do have some other programs that
we’re working on right now which include standardization of plans, residential video
inspection programs and field plan review for solar. And so we – our statistics are we permitted
2,200, just over 2,200 solar permits this year. So yeah, we’re in the game. We’re just switching our software from Hanson
to _____ Technologies Intergov and that’s going to open up that online portal and online
permitting across the board for several different scopes of work. Yeah. And that’s awesome Valerie. Really like that update. And it shows – one of the reasons why we
wanted to have you guys on here is that you’re doing a lot of that interesting work on the
inspection side of the house too. And it also goes to show that a lot of the
folks on this call too have already done working with an online software provider for PV. And so this can be complimentary to that as
well. But I wanted to dig into the Q&A portion we
have now and really start with kind of a broad question. And some of you spoke to this already in your
opening remarks which is great. But if you could just chime in a little bit
more on how the evolution of the solar market has really spurred you to consider making
innovations to your permitting and inspection processes. And Val I might start with you to talk about
how you change you’re doing your virtual remote inspection might be a first step there. If you might just provide a little bit more
perspective on what you’re doing with that. Well, we did actually initially launch the
residential video inspection program in an effort to help the solar industry to begin
with. And it has opened up to the several one and
done type homeowner inspections where the homeowner would have to either be home or
take time off of work and be there for several visits whether the contractor goes in and
changes the water heater and goes back to do the inspection. But solar really drove that residential video
inspection. And so the customer scheduled an appointment
through the appointments plus app. And then it’s so convenient because especially
particularly with solar and some of our solar companies here in town they schedule their
time slots in the morning and our inspector calls the customer through video Skype and
they do a live video feed Skype inspection and the contractor and our inspector work
together to facilitate the inspection, what needs to be looked at. And I think most of our solar companies have
gone to standard plans for all of their equipment use. So the only thing that changes is the layout
of the roof and specific to that property. So it’s really working out well. I think since July we’ve done well over
300 inspections on video inspections. That’s great. Thanks Valerie for that. And then I was going to actually talk – maybe
pitch this one to Yolanda over from Las Vegas to start. If you guys might – and you mentioned sort
of at the beginning that you went online, you’ve been online and doing instant permitting
for some time. But could you talk a little bit about sort
of how the permit process and plan review steps have evolved since then to allow you
to accommodate more permit applications coming through? Sure. So initially before we added Solar applications
to our online system the applicants had to come in with a paper and go through the permit
technicians. And because the demand was so high we couldn’t
keep up really in a timely way in getting them processed and put into our permitting
system and getting them reviewed. When we looked at what we were seeing on the
plans we realized that with the residential installs it really didn’t require the plan
examiner’s time to look at as Valerie was talking about a lot of it is pretty standard. So because of the demand on staff and the
large numbers that we were getting and the delays that we were causing the industry because
it was taking us several days to get it into the system and get it looked at and approved
to the point where they could pay the permit and get their permit and start the work. We decided because of that we wanted to add
it to the online system. And it now takes them less than five minutes
to put it online, get their permit. And then when they go to the site and they’re
ready for their install they just have to provide the inspector with the plans on site
for them to bring back to the office. So it has really streamlined the system, made
it a lot faster for the industry. Our staff wasn’t really adding value to
the residential installs and looking at the plans. And they were basically just doing the data
entry that now the companies are doing for us. So I think it was a win win for both the industry
and for us because then our staff could spend dedicated time on things that really needed
to get looked at. And we haven’t seen any issues with the
inspectors out in the field and the inspections that they’re doing. So it’s been working really well. Yeah. That’s good to hear. And I’ll put a pin in that and talk a little
bit about the impacts in a second with you. But I wanted to go back to Nabil and see if
he might have a bit of additional perspective at Los Angeles site. Yes, Los Angeles. Excuse me. Can you hear me now? Yes. You sound much better. Very good. We corrected this. All right. As I’m listening to the panelists right
now and as you know Jeff we took – about four years ago we took the standard plans
that the state of California had. And we develop it – basically we develop
our system based on the standard plans. So what we have up to 10 KW for residential
that a customer or applicant can apply online and then plug in data. That data basically in calculation. And then the system will calculate and then
approve the plans and then email an approved set of plan PDF back to the applicant. So it’s an approved set of plan PDF, 8 and
a half by 11 that the customer prints out and takes to the inspection. So the whole process probably takes about
less than ten minutes. And we have – we still have very positive
feedback from applicants on the system. [Music plays] The county of Los Angeles to
follow in the same footsteps. So – I hear music background now. I don’t know if you hear it too. Valerie, I think that may be on – Am I still on? Yeah. We’ll mute Val for a second here and then
we’ll bring her back in. So Valerie there may be some background noise
on your end. So – Sorry. The city of Los Angeles we have about probably
200 permits for PV residential a week. And I would say 70 percent of those are done
online. And that helps us really tremendously because
we have very busy counters. And when applicants use the system for less
than ten minutes and they have a permit and approve the plans emailed to them it’s really
been win win for everybody, industry and us. So we have very, very positive feedback from
all the contractors _____ now. We try to accomplish more and go above the
70 percent but there is limitation sometimes in terms of whether they need approval from
fire department and whether the system, the addresses pop up in the system or not. So these issues we couldn’t resolve. But so far it’s been working great for us. And we’re having – it’s helping us a
lot and helping the customers at the same time. Yeah. And I actually was going to kind of – well,
maybe I’ll – actually I’m going to pause there for a second and I’m going to say
– I’m going to pass it to Jeff for a second too to provide any feedback on this question. I know you mentioned sort of the focus on
that you had to look at innovative processes as well in your opening remarks. But if you wanted to add anything to this
question before I move on to the next one. Yeah. Well, I would add that – I think listening
to everyone I think it’s really great to hear how everybody is focused on really trying
to help with this problem. We’ve all seen it individually. Obviously to some really large jurisdictions
that have a lot of solar going on down to your smaller jurisdictions. But it seems like we’re all trying in our
own ways to streamline the process. And so what I like, what I heard about the
SolarAPP is that this is not driven by one individual company, that it’s an independent
process. And that’s something that when I’ve talked
to other jurisdictions and you start to venture out to try to work with local companies people
start to bring that thought in that we want to be independent of an individual company
and not be biased. So that’s what I like that’s great about
the SolarAPP. And like I said we’re fully willing to try
this. I think it’s a great next step. Yeah. That’s awesome and we’ll talk a bit more
about sort of the team and everything else and how we’re moving this forward in a second
here as well. But I wanted to talk a little bit about this
idea that we know that there’s a lot of folks that might be online and doing online
permitting. And some of them may be doing some pieces
of online solar permitting but they don’t really allow necessarily instant approval. And so I know that that’s common across
the folks on this call. And so could you speak a little bit about
why you’ve allowed for instant permit approval. Maybe we’ll start with you again Yolanda
if that’s ok in our online platform. Yeah. So we decided on the instant approval because
at the time we had a real staffing constrain. We only had two plans examiners and we didn’t
find that there were a lot of issues with the residential installs. So we started to try to have the technician
just put it in the system and they would do review in lieu of and have it go to the inspector
anyway to look at the final install. So we really weren’t doing the review in
house because we didn’t have the staffing and we didn’t see problems with the installations
to dedicate a plans examiner to review those. So we went online and decided to go that route
to save the staffing time and dedicate the time for the inspector to really look at the
install. And if they found issues they could always
deny the inspection and have it come back for a review if it was needed, if there was
something really serious going on. So when we went live with it, it was really
because of our staffing challenges at the time. And we really only felt that we needed to
look at the commercial installations because fire needed to make sure that they had the
ability to go and shut off the systems and access and those were a more serious or more
tended to have more technical issues that we needed to look at. Did I answer your question? You did. I appreciate that. And Nabil would you offer your perspective
as well on this or is it about the same for you in Los Angeles or different? Yeah. I mean we figured out – I mean when we did
our research on how to handle that standard plans we had the same thing. I mean if we – if the applicant falls into
this category, let’s say categories A through Z and then follow the steps of calculating
and then follow the rules of the fire department which I think they call it rule number 96
that what the fire department is looking for and what the building plan check is looking
for. So there’s like disclosures there for the
applicant. First he says ok. This is how many modules we’re putting. This is the type of inverters we’re putting. This is a calculation. This is ambient temperature. So we thought if we group these into these
categories and then probably these are like 80 or 90 percent of what our plan checker
is looking for. So why not proceeding with the approval and
then printing that plan approved and then have the inspector verify this on the field. And so far it’s been great. I mean you have probably very, very small
percentage where there is dispute between what the applicant included in their data
online and then what the inspector sees in the field. So if there is any issue with that then the
inspector sends them back to plan check to the counter. If during that checklist saying I’m ok with
this, this, this. But if the inspector verify in the field says
wait a minute. What you entered here is not correct what
you installed. Then they send it back. So that sending back percentage is very, very
small and that’s why we proceeded with complete approval of the plan. And we – I mean when the system was rolled
off basically we get like a few calls a week. Now we don’t get probably every couple months
we get one call from inspection of disputing what the applicant entered in the field. So that worked really good. And that’s why we proceeded with that have
it approved instantly. Yeah. And you kind of just sort of walked us, you
both did which is great into sort of the impacts of this call it a change I guess going online
and instant. You’ve kind of talked a little bit. It doesn’t sound like there’s been a significant
uptick in failed inspections. But could you talk maybe a bit more about
what the other impacts of this have been? I think you also alluded a little bit too
on what it’s been, how it’s helped your staffing needs. So just maybe we’ll start with you Nabil
to just maybe add any addition color to what you already started mentioning there at the
end. Well, I mean it helped our staff because we
have three officers handling plan checker counter here in the city of Los Angeles. And it’s hard to keep staffing these counters
when the volume of these applications especially for a period taking big percentage of the
work. So it helped is tremendously when we have
like 70 percent, close to 70 percent of the PV residential done online to release staff
to handle other projects as you know with the construction booming for the last eight,
nine years and still booming. I mean that helped us tremendously in this
situation. I mean I see all positive things on the online. The only thing probably you mentioned in the
question is the change of codes. That’s the only thing we see that every
three years we have new codes as you know. And so far the update of that standard plan
to make sure it’s still meeting the requirement of the code. That’s the only thing we see. But other than that it’s just positive situation
in online permitting. Yeah. And we also agree. Sort of that’s one of the things that SolarAPP
will be doing is making sure that it matches and updates with every code cycle to keep
it up to date and compliant which is a key goal of this project as well. I’m going to pass it back to Yolanda for
a second here. Did you want to add as well on any other impact
that you mentioned. In particular and Nabil mentioned this too
sort of. You’re not losing permitting staff. You’re moving them around to more important
higher profile projects that need their expertise and review which I think is a particularly
interesting point that this frees them up to do that. But any other sort of impacts you haven’t
mentioned yet? So yes. I’m in agreement with everything that Nabil
said. And it’s helped us to rededicate the staff
to other projects that were getting delayed because they were spending time reviewing
these residential PV installs. The other thing that has helped us is that
on the inspection side of it we have a dedicated group of inspectors, team of PV inspectors
that are focused on the electrical installs. And so they’re really up to date on everything
to do with PV. And that’s helped them in being able to
do these inspections in the field with the plans that are submitted by the applicants. So that’s the other piece that has been
helpful for us in rolling it out. Yeah. I was going to pass this over to Jeff to see
if you might have any perspective as well in terms of either what how this has worked
out in Modesto and/or how the SolarAPP could best help you and your staff to do some of
the same things. Yeah. Absolutely. I agree with everybody, everything that everybody
said. And the thing is even though we’re in a
booming economy we’re all very busy. And after the recession government has not
been quick to supply us with extra staff and so that’s always been a problem that we’re
always constantly overwhelmed with the amount of work that we have to do. And so this is one of the opportunities that
we have where you have a streamlined process that can really help. And then it becomes a win win for both of
here’s government employees and for the companies and people that we deal with on
the other side that we can work together to find ways to help both of us. Yeah. And then I’m going to bring you back in
here Valerie. Did you have any thoughts as well on this
discussion about how innovations and online permitting can help use your staff more effectively? Well, yeah. I think that online permitting and online
payments, just online in general, anything that increases our technology base is effective
for not only the government officials and staff but for the customer as well. I know that the closer we get to complete
blue beam plan review and complete online permitting access and special requests it
just speeds up the course of development which is amazing. We’re just not quite there yet. We’re still we’re just switching over
to this new software. So as we move baby steps. I mean we’re a smaller jurisdiction here
locally too so we’re like a little – we’re usually a bit behind the other jurisdictions
when it comes to technology assets as well as staffing numbers. Yeah. And that brings up a nice point too about
a divide, a resource divide between large, the largest cities in the country and more
rural communities. And that’s one of the things that the SolarAPP
is designed to help address in that it will be a no cost to AHJs to adopt and so can help
even the small communities with limited resources to go online as they wouldn’t necessarily
be able to do that. And we just have a couple more minutes of
our panelists’ time. And so I’m going to start with Nabil for
a second here for this question. And just if you have any insights or kind
of concluding thoughts, lessons learned for what other jurisdictions might want to consider
when making this change to online permitting. Are there any kind of thoughts you might bestow
on them or us to help make this product more successful going forward? Well, Jeff. I think from the experience we have, the city
of Los Angeles and then the demand for PV experience has been great using the online. I do suggest it for other jurisdictions. As I mentioned in my response earlier in looking
at the code and the requirements for the PV if other jurisdictions probably approach it
the same way of looking what the code is looking for and what the review process is looking
for that you can see you can group these into very, very big percentage and makes it easier
for everybody. So from the experience we have we really encourage
that to approach the online process for PV because if as we talked and other panelists
talked every jurisdiction is dealing with smaller projects such as PV or maybe tenant
improvement or other. But to put that small project, PV on a single
family home in line with major project, high rise or non-high rise and then wait for it
it doesn’t make sense for somebody to install PV on their home say yeah, I want to wait
one month, two months because they have other major projects in line. So by sorting these projects, the PV and having
it online that really keeps the other projects whether medium project or major project keep
them going without these small proje3cts affecting the process. So we do recommend it for other jurisdictions
to go online and pursue the online permitting for PV. Yeah. That’s really helpful and thanks for that
Nabil. And I’m going to pass the same question
over to Yolanda. Would you mind providing us some concluding
thoughts and advice to move forward? So I agree with everything that Nabil said. And for us in terms of learnings I would say
that one of the key things is to have the system integrated with your permitting system
so that it’s also streamlined there and it feeds directly into your database. All of our inspectors have tablets that they
go out and do inspections. So the information is immediately fed to their
tablet when inspections are scheduled and they have all of that information the day
of the inspection. And actually the company that pulls the permit
can schedule the inspection for the next day after they pull the permit. So it’s really immediate response. So I think that’s important to be responsive
to the industry and help them get their projects done as quickly as possible. And I would also say the ability – unfortunately
when we went live we didn’t have the system to, for them to upload their plans. We do now. But at the time we integrated it into our
online no plans system. So we’re still taking in the paper plans
in the field and bringing it back so your system can help them submit the PDFs online
and help the smaller jurisdictions with that piece of it also. I think that will be really helpful for everybody. Yeah. I totally agree. And to your point we are working with existing
software providers to make sure that this application can seamlessly integrate with
what they’re already doing within the platform you’re already using instead of it being
standalone or separate. So that’s good to hear as well as the other
insights that you offered. Certainly all great. I’m not going to pass it to Val, Valerie
Evans, sorry, to provide your concluding thoughts on this topic. Yeah. I support what Yolanda said as well that it
just needs to either – it has to integrate with our current software and I don’t know
how that, how well that’s going to integrate with the different types of software that
we all use. Locally there’s not one software here. I think there’s like three that we use locally
that would allow for instantaneous permitting and to be able to view the plans and to have
that information to the inspectors in the field. I agree that that’s the case and as well
as Nabil what he mentioned is that just separating those different levels of plan review from
that longer check and review to those quicker types of checks over the counter or online
or – our video inspection program we don’t bring plans back in. We do the plans in the field as the customer
gets them on video and then the inspector does the plan reviews. So anything we can do to be more efficient
in all areas of government and development is a great thing as far as I’m concerned. Yeah. Totally agree. And then now we’ll conclude with Jeff from
Modesto. And I have a particular ask for you Jeff to
both provide us your concluding thoughts and then also a pitch for why you think other
cities should join you to test out the SolarAPP when it’s done. Ok. Well, again I see this as a plus because again
we’re all struggling with our staff and we’re not increasing staff at an exponential
rate and solar is growing exponential. So this is a great way that we can work together
to like the other people said find ways through technology to integrate with our systems. Here at Modesto we’re going to be getting
a new permitting system shortly in the next few months. And so as far as joining in I think yeah. I mean people should join in. We should be taking that next step. I mean it seems like – like to say when
everybody at the beginning of the call was talking about their individual issues and
their individual jurisdictions. It’s like we’re all operating in these
micro bubbles trying to solve a problem. And so you have this program out there that’s
coming out with this app that we can all support and would help us all. So I think we should jump on board and give
it a shot. I appreciate that Jeff and I actually appreciate
everyone on the call. I want to thank you all for your insights
in this space, your discussion and dialogue of the work you’re doing around instant
online permitting in your jurisdictions and the other innovations too in terms of inspection
as well. So really want to thank you for your on the
ground expertise in this area which of course we’ll be following up with each of you as
well as others to help us to build out exactly what those permit requirements are or at least
vet them going forward. So thank you everybody. And now we’re going to transition to talking
about the next piece of the SolarAPP project and that is a little bit more of a digging
into how do we get there. Right? How do we take all the disparate information
out there about permitting requirements and actually turn it into a product that is functional
online and we can run our first permit through it. So we’re going use the latter half of our
webinar to really dig through how that’s actually going to happen. And so first and foremost we’ve been talking
with a lot of organizations that are either existing partners of ours, in kind contributors
and the like as well as a variety of other entities to provide a lot of expertise in
the solar industry as well as permitting in general. And a lot of those entities are listed here. And we have an opportunity for each one of
those organizations was able to join us on this call. And so we’re going to go through and try
our best here to have each of those folks introduce themselves on this, in 30 to 60
seconds introduce themselves, their organization and what expertise they provide to the solar,
in the solar space. And we’re going to start and we just did
it here in alphabetical order. And hopefully we can get to everybody in this
slide. But first we’ll start with Rudy from IBTS. And so Rudy we’re going to go ahead and
unmute you if we haven’t done that already. Although it doesn’t look like we’ve gotten
Rudy on the call yet. I am not seeing him and he’s not as a panelist. He did just contact me so hopefully we can
get him on here before the end of this. But so I don’t see Rudy but importantly
enough or they’re going to be an important partner for us. IBTS is building out an inspection platform
that we are working as a partner with them to ensure that those two platforms speak to
each other so that you can go from a permit to schedule an inspection assuming that a
city didn’t already have an inspection platform already functioning. And Rudy does say he’s online so maybe we
can find him in the attendee list here. I’m not seeing you Rudy but we’ll try
and see if we can get you on there before the end of the introduction. So we’re going to move on to our next organization
that we’re really interested in incorporating into this project. And that’s David Clements from the International
Association of Electric Inspectors. And I know that David told me that he had
an evet before this one and was going to try and join us in the process but we don’t
see him on our list either. But in short as many of you on this call know
IAEI is an important participant in discussions with permitting in general and including solar. And so they’re going to be a key partner
for us going forward to at the very least give technical feedback on where we’re going
and the direction as well. And now our third organization is the International
Code Council and Shawn Martin. But I’m not actually seeing Shawn on our
list here either. But he unfortunately is supposed to as well. So he is called in and we just have his number
listed here. Let me see. Do you see that here? I’ll forward it to you. But I don’t see the list of umbers, just
the names here. Do we have that somewhere? No. Yeah. So unfortunately Shawn I’m not sure we’re
going to be able to speak to you unless you possibly register again separately and put
your name in this particular time. Because if we don’t have your name Shawn
we’re not going to be able to get you unmuted and move you over to a panelist. So hopefully Shawn you can try to call in
and reregister. It would be great. I do know we do have Larry Sherwood from IREC
and so Larry if you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself as well as your organization and
what you guys do in the solar space. You do a ton of work and I think everyone
from the panel would benefit. And I’ve unmuted you Larry. Can you hear me? Yes, I can. And – great. My name is Larry Sherwood and I’m the CEO
of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council or IREC. IREC is a national nonprofit organization
that builds the foundation for rapid adoption of clean energy and energy efficiency to benefit
people, the economy and our planet. In partnership with IAEI and ICC we have developed
trainings for code officials related to solar permits and inspections. You can visit the IREC website and sign up
for the online version of that code official training. IREC recently is working on a new DOE grant
that will begin this spring to take the Sustainable Energy Action Committee or SEAC national. This project will provide a forum where code
officials, installers, manufacturers and other stakeholders can identify challenges, prioritize
gaps and propose solutions to solar and solar plus storage, code enforcement and permitting
approval issues, Thanks for that Larry. And I’m actually going to go – it looks
like we do have Rudy back on. So do we have – I think we have Rudy unmuted
by chance. He should be. Rudy are you there? Oh Rudy it looks like you’re self-muted. Ok. Can you hear? It told me I’m unmuted. Can you hear me? Yeah. You are. We can hear you. Wow. That was difficult. Hello. How are you? Thanks for the introduction. My name is Rudy Saporite. I’m leading IBTS’s similar effort for
online support in the solar industry in the DOE grant for PV inspection platform. Providing technical support as a subject matter
expert on NREL’s effort for SolarAPP, completing desktop reviews, panel plan reviews, inspection
reviews, etcetera as needed for the support of this effort. So look forward to continuing to support NREL
and these types of efforts. Yeah. Thanks Rudy. And we’ve gotten Shawn. Shawn I went ahead and unmuted you. Are you there? Yeah. I’m right here. Awesome. Yeah. Please introduce yourself. Great to have you. Thanks. Thanks for your patience. A little difficulty connecting. I’m representing the International Code
Council today. I’m really honored to be here. This is an exciting effort on behalf of our
members and we represent about 65,000 members many of whom are code officials or code professionals
of various stripes. We do produce model codes, about 15 of them
used in pretty much every state in the union. We’ve been looking at solar permitting for
quite a while as well so we were very excited to hear about the SolarAPP project. It’s something we’ve been hearing from
our members for quite a while mostly because of the volume but also because some of the
topics are new to some of them. Although increasingly that’s not the case. We participated in some training with IREC
not too long ago. We trained quite a few code officials around
the country. And in doing that we got a lot of great feedback. One thing we heard over and over again is
we need more support and that the volume is overwhelming. And I think that’s what you heard today. So we’re excited to see this kind of disruption
come to the permitting space and we’re excited to see where we can take it elsewhere with
other building products and technologies. Yeah. Thanks for that Shawn. And we’re very much looking forward to working
with you as well in this space. So I’m now going to transition to the other
side of the slide and that will be Justin from SEIA. Please go ahead and introduce yourself Justin. It looks like you are also self-muted but
now you’re back on. So hello Justin. Thanks Jeff. Yeah. Hi. I’m Justin Baca. I am vice president of markets and research
at SEIA the Solar Energy Industries Association. And one of the areas I oversee if our codes
and standards work. And I’m very fortunate to work with two
exceptional colleagues there who have been in the solar industry for decades. And we have of course a great interest in
seeing improvements in permitting around the country. And there are some markets where we know that
it’s a difficult process both for installers and for the AHJs. And we think that there are a lot of opportunities
here for win win win between installers, AHJs and customers. And we just make the process better for everyone,
focus our efforts on the things that are challenging and simplify the areas that are fairly straightforward. And the other thing we know is that we expect
the pace of solar installations to keep growing. And it’s really a question of how fast they
grow. And a lot of that growth is going to come
from jurisdictions that do not currently have a lot of volume. And so we think there is also a lot of value
here in helping provide solutions for people who haven’t yet started seeing challenges
at volume. And so I’m really excited about working
with everyone on this team and talking with all the AHJs that are interested in this because
we really want this to be something that works for everyone. Yeah. Thanks Justin. Totally agree. And I apologize. I’m sorry. I skipped Jeff Sargent and I’m not – that’s
a bummer because the national fire protection association is one of our partners and we’re
really interested in including your perspective. And so Jeff please introduce yourself and
your organization. And thanks again for being here. Good afternoon. Thanks Jeff for inviting us to be part of
this discussion today. I am the technical manager for the National
Electrical Code Project. The National Electrical Code has been in the
solar space for about 35 years. The first article on the electrical piece
of the solar installation was in the 1984 edition of the National Electrical Code. And I did hear people talking about the code
several times. And I don’t want to be presumptuous but
I think it was probably the National Electrical Code they were talking about. We’ve seen a significant amount of activity
over the last dozen years in article 690 on the PV. And it’s reflective of the increased amount
of PV that’s going in across the country. In addition we’ve added a new article on
utility scale installations. We’ve seen a significant amount of expansion
in article 705 for the interconnected power production sources and also a new article
710 on standalone systems. So whether it’s PV or wind or any of these
other renewables it is one of the most active topics within the National Electrical Code
Project right now. We are revising the NEC every three years. We’ve been doing that since 1952. The 2020 edition of the National Electrical
Code was issued in August of this year. And there are currently five states that are
looking at updating to the 2020. And Massachusetts will implement it on January
1 of 2020. Currently there are 30 states that are using
the 2017 edition and then there are others using the 2014, 2011 and believe it or not
there are some states that are still using the 2008. A couple of other NFBA documents – NFBA
one our fire code we are into the roof access and the amount of space taken up by the PV
basically from the first responder concerns. And then also in the developmental stages
NFBA 915 which is a remote inspection standard that is being, the draft is being developed
currently. So we are big into this space. We want to be part of this discussion and
again we thank you for inviting us. Yeah. Thanks for that Jeff. And we echo your statements. We’re really looking forward to having you
on the team. And now I’m going to move over and see if
I can read down the list effectively this time. Over to Karen from Sunrun. Karen can you introduce yourself? Yes. Hi all. My name is Karen Banker with Sunrun. I’ve been in the industry for just about
ten years now at all levels from sales to operations and policies. So I’m really honored to be a part of this
project. Ringleader over at Sunrun pulling together
the multiple departments that would need to be involved in this kind of project. And I just think this is such a huge opportunity
for collaboration between industry code bodies and local governments. I know that we all want to create more resilience
in our communities, especially in the face of climate change or as you’ve seen in California
these public power safety shut offs. I’ve seen solar transform the developing
work. When I started my work in small scale solar
in Indonesia and Kenya and such. And so I really think we have a huge opportunity
to bring that same kind of growth to the developed world over in the Untied States with this
project. I think that it will help accelerate the industry. It will help save local governments a lot
of money and time which is huge for all of us. And additionally over the last couple of years
most of the utilities in the United States have gone online and many of them have created
instant interconnection processes. So this is really just falling naturally in
line with the other entities that the industry has to deal with. And just so grateful to have you all as allies. So thank you for being a part of this. Yeah. Thanks Karen. And appreciate you being on this project as
well. You’ve definitely been providing a great
deal of input as well as a variety of other folks in Sunrun that we’ll introduce shortly. So Tyler unfortunately from Sun Power was
unable to join us but he is a key member of our team as well. And now I’m going to pass it over to Val
from Tesla. Val would you mind introducing yourself? Yes. Can you hear me? Yeah. Awesome. So hi everyone. Val from Tesla. I have been in the permitting and inspections
for residential solar space for about a decade which is a little bit crazy now that I think
about it and say that. But I just had too interesting of a seat to
go anywhere. And so I have earned my stripes actually running
permits and hosting inspections in the majority of jurisdictions down in southern California. And then went to headquarters with Solar City
where I was sort of spearheading permitting and inspections across the country and dealing
with thousands of different jurisdictions on both the permitting and inspections front. And so talking with cities and counties and
fire departments has been a big passion of mine for the last several years. And it’s been particularly interesting to
go from Solar City to Tesla. And I have to say that our leadership is more
interested now than ever in helping to solve sort of this issue and understanding that
this is one of the big pieces of the puzzle to solve to get solar deployed across the
country. And so it’s been really cool to sort of
see that support coming in. And so yeah. I’m excited to be here and I think this
is – Jeff thank you for NREL’s leadership in this. I don’t think we could be doing this without
you guys. I know we couldn’t because the industry
can only bring things so far without having the governments involved. And I think that you’re going to help us
sort of reach out to all of the different local governments. The one other thing that I would say is that
I had the privilege of being present, a witness and the participant when the city of Los Angeles
transitioned. And so into going online. And so I actually remember sitting at the
counter when it took six weeks to two months. And it would vary depending on which plan
checker you got. Everybody had a different idea of what they
wanted to see. And so it took a little while for the city
of Los Angeles to really get the program that they wanted implemented. And I remember sitting on the team that put
together the California standard permitting guidebook the first time. And there were I forget how many months we
did it but basically once a week everybody would get together and we’d wordsmith and
we’d talk about what exactly should be incorporated. Thank you NFPA for being the north star of
what we should be including based on that NEC in the codes. And so I think it was a little bit of a process
which is what this is going to be. But I think I’m really excited to hear from
all jurisdictions and all of our code partners and everybody to figure out what can we help
this country establish as the solar standard so we can get more solar onto customers’
homes that want it. So excited about it. Thanks Val. I appreciate that too. NREL is really excited about this work and
moving everyone forward. On that front I’m going to move now to Richard
Lawrence from the Solar Foundation. Hi Richard. Hi Jeff. Thanks for having me. Richard Lawrence. I’m program director at the Solar Foundation. As Jeff mentioned earlier in the intro Solar
Foundation was one of the cofounders of this initiative last year. And since then we have been working diligently
o this with all these partners that you see here to develop and implement this program. So we’re very excited to be a part of this
activity. Personally I have over 15 years of experience
in the renewable energy industry. This has been mainly focused on education,
training, workforce development. Going back to 2005 I was doing training for
solar installers and code officials as well and electricians that were getting involved
in the industry, done a lot in the professional certifications and workplace qualifications
as well as quality assurance standards, inspection protocols, etcetera. Solar Foundation has been engaged in these
programs to assist communities for nearly a decade here. One of them was the solar outreach partnership,
a Department of Energy funded program that we ran from 2010 to 2015. Currently since 2015 we’ve been running
the Sol Smart community designation program. I know we have many representatives on the
webinar here today from that program. Through that initiative we’ve provided technical
assistance to hundreds of communities across the country recognizing I think currently
now 347 of them in 42 states at different levels, bronze, silver and gold. Part of that process we do a lot of zoning
work as well and also permitting and inspection and helping people through that process along
with a number of other things to look for improvements in those areas to help them be
more open to solar development. And so one of the other things we’re known
for is the solar job census which gets to the point that Justin made earlier around
where the jobs are, where the growth in the industry is happening. And you can see that report. So we do that census every year, work on some
issues around diversity and inclusion there as well. So happy to participate in this and welcome
everybody to visit thesolarfoundation.org to get more information about all our programs
and look forward to continuing to work with everybody here. Thank you. Yeah. Thanks Richard. And now I’m going to go to Ken Boyce from
UL. Ken I’ve unmuted you. Are you there? I’m here. Thanks Jeff. Yeah. I’m Ken Boyce. I serve as principle engineer director for
energy and power technologies at UL. And I’m sure many of you know UL as a global
safety science company that is deeply engaged with the regulatory community and with the
industry and you’re familiar with our trusted mark of safety. At UL I lead our global technical team in
the energy and power sector and that includes solar energy. I also lead our engagement with the US Department
of Energy and the national laboratories across the entire energy sector. I have the privilege of serving as the chairman
of National Electrical Code Making Panel One which oversees the content of Annex _____
on administration and enforcement. And I serve as the chairman of the solar industry’s
association codes and standards working group. So really at the core of a lot of the discussions
that are going on here. But I’m super glad to be a part of this
collaborative effort to bring people together and support effective and efficient permitting
of safe solar installations so that we can grow our renewable energy platform. Thanks Jeff. Yeah. Thanks Ken. And I apologize to both Ben Davis and Kyle
Wallace. I did not – I neglected to include you on
this slide but you’re key partners certainly. So Ben from CSSA would you please introduce
yourself and your organization. And apologies for not having you on the slide. That’s ok. Thanks Jeff. So my name is Ben Davis. I’m the policy associate with the California
Solar and Storage Association. We are the solar industry association in California
as our name says. We represent 500 companies in the industry. Half of them are installers and the other
half are manufacturers, distributors, financers, technology companies, etcetera. I run our codes standards and permitting work. We have – I run our codes standards and
permitting committee which is made up of about 40 or 50 companies. We were the sponsors of AB2188 in California
which streamlined permitting for solar. Also we were behind California’s AB546 which
streamlined permitting for storage and that’s being implemented as we speak. And we were a partner on the solar California
solar permitting guidebook from the governor’s office of planning and research that came
out a couple years ago. We’re totally excited to be on board and
work with other companies both, our member companies both the big ones on this slide
and the smaller ones to make this, make the SolarAPP as successful as possible. And I’m excited to be on board and thank
you Jeff and thank you to NREL. Yeah. Thanks Ben. And then now I’m going to turn it over to
Kyle Wallace from Vivint. Kyle are you there? Hi. Yes, I am. My name is Kyle Wallace with Vivint Solar
and the manager of public policies. And Vivint Solar operates in 23 states and
across a couple thousand AHJs. And so we’ve seen the kind of various issues
that you see from state to state and city to city. And so we’re really excited about the opportunity
to do this collaborative effort to really improve things for ultimately our joint citizens
and customers. And so we’re just, we’re really excited
about the opportunity and what it can do for permitting, what it can do for safety, what
it can do for municipalities and _____. So yeah. Just very excited about it. Yeah. Thanks Kyle. Really appreciate you being a part of the
team as well and certainly have been key contributors so far. All right. So that’s everybody. So we can go ahead and continue on. I’m really excited to work with all of you
folks as well as everyone else on this call and beyond this call to make sure that we
develop the best product possible here at the lab. So I wanted to dig in a little bit more into
what we are building. And it really does start with that point I
referenced earlier which was this piece about guidebooks. There’s all these best practices out there. I know Richard mentioned Sol Smart already. A lot of the work LA did was based in part
on the California solar permitting guidebook as well. And so now I’m going to pass it over to
Evelyn Butler from SEIA to just give us a little bit of a perspective on what we’re
doing with guidebooks and how they’re informing the efforts. So Evelyn are you there? I am. And thanks everyone. I’m going to keep it kind of short and sweet
because I know we’re – I’m watching the clock to make sure we’ve got enough
time for others to speak. Essentially SEIA is going to be very active
with all of our members as well as the other stakeholders who were involved in the effort
to really take a look at what’s been instituted into either guidebooks or best practices and
other types of documents across the country where solar is being installed. And essentially it’s a very dynamic process
for us. We set in on all of the engineering subgroup
calls. We listen to what they’re determining as
far as inputs and outputs into the platform. And then in parallel also doing a broad review
of what other existing guidebooks are out there. And what we’re really trying to accomplish
is grounding the different steps of the process that are involved in going through and obtaining
your permit through the SolarAPP platform and identifying where they are grounded in
either for instance the California solar permitting guidebook or the national guidebook that were
published by TSF under the Sol Smart umbrella. We also look at for instance like the NSERTA
guidebook as well and there’s a whole host of other ones that have popped up here and
there. Some of them are more process oriented rather
than technical requirement oriented. But generally we think that folks are looing
for a lot of the same types of things, right, in terms of how to streamline and get those
initial applications completed so that the build can start and the inspection process
as its required can also start. So our analysis involves mainly again listening
in on the inputs, outputs, finding out where that’s grounded in the guidebook and then
feeding some of that information back to the engineering group as well. So we think it also gives us an opportunity
to identify any gaps or opportunities between the guidebooks that exist across the country
which may be learned from each other and some of the things that are involved there. So that’s kind of generally in a nutshell
where we’re at. And we’ll be kind of going through this
throughout the development process and then summarizing. I think when it comes to the software eventually
how the references can be accessed so that folks like the AHJs who are trying to determine
where certain input, outputs are grounded they actually have a referenceable document
that exists of why that input value or that requirement is in there. Great. Thanks Evelyn. Yeah, it’s a dynamic process. And like I said anyone that has a guidebook
that they think we should be reviewing please send along. And now I’m going to dug in or we’re going
to have our three key kind of core workgroup team leads speak for a minute about the work
that they’re doing around electric, fire and structural. And the first one we’re going to talk about
is electrical. And so the team leads are listed here. Of course I’ve been talking a lot so I’m
going to pass this over to Mark Rodriguez and Mark it looks like you might be self-muted. So if you might unmute yourself we can go
ahead and get started. Can you hear me now? We can. Awesome. Good afternoon everybody. My name is Mark Rodriguez. I’m currently the senior jurisdiction specialist
for Sunrun which means my day consists of permitting and inspection escalations across
the nation and all the territory that Sunrun operates in. I really got my chops over the last ten years
working in the solar industry. Over the last six being the manager for Sunrun’s
design center with my focus in California. So definitely well versed in the permitting
process across California. In fact my parents at one time had told me
I should have been a lawyer because of my argumentative skills. I could tell her that I found a home in solar
permitting and inspections. So for me over the biggest factor in my life
over the last six years has been kind of the ambiguity of the permitting process. We cover thousands of jurisdictions across
the country. So I currently maintain the jurisdiction database. I’m constantly making updates to stay abreast
of what’s required in the field. So for me I’m looking to really move the
checks from behind the counter on a piece of paper back into the field. So what I did was I took a look at the two
modes, LA city and the Las Vegas model and figured out how we could get something in
between where we have a fairly good compliance check but we’re not spending a whole lot
of resources up front checking a piece of paper. So what I looked at was what could be verified
through databases, what could be calculated on the back end through behind the scenes
calculations and what should best be checked at inspection in the field either through
one of those like the more traditional methods of on site inspection or virtual or audit
through photos or some other type of method. But what I wanted to avoid was some of the
less reputable contractors using jurisdictions and their resources as a QA device and basically
really miring the process hoping that the jurisdiction will just correct their plans
and they can take their best shot at install. What we’d rather have done is let’s do
a good compliance check up front that’s minimal human resources touching it, touch
points. And let’s really focus on the workmanship
and making sure that our installations are good and safe and are going to be reliable
and left. So that’s my thoughts. Thanks Yeah. Thanks Mark. And we’re really looking forward like you
said to figuring out what those requirements can and should be to move the whole industry
forward based on what we know the best practices are today. So we can move on now to the Fire Workgroup. And I believe Charles you’ll be leading
our discussion on this side. So Charles it looks like you’ll need to
unmute yourself as well and then we’ll go from there. Ok. You should be able to hear me now. And we can. All right. Great. Yes. Thanks Jeff. Charles Picard. I’m a senior engineer and vice president
of electrical operations in New York and Rhode Island here in Tesla. I work alongside the rest of Tesla’s global
regulatory compliance team for our energy products, tracking, helping develop codes
and standards related to PV and energy storage. Also part of my role here I help guide product
testing of our energy products to inform not just codes and standards but also creation
and publication of emergency response guides for first responders. I spent the last few years actually developing
and delivering Tesla specific PV and energy storage training content to AHJs via local
IEAI and ICC chapter meetings as well as local fire departments, everything from several
hundred member fire departments to seven guys in a garage in a rural upstate New York volunteer
fire department. So I spent a lot of time in and around the
fire service trying to get their perspectives on how this type of technology impacts their
lives and their response decisions. So a major benefit to that type of work is
it allows me to facilitate this really great feedback loop from not only the first responder
but also the enforcement community back to our product development team. Yeah. Sorry. I didn’t mean to cut you off there, Charles. No. That’s fine. Thanks. Yeah. I appreciate having you running this part
of our group as well. And the same thing we’ll be working diligently
on the fire side of the house with our partners moving from here. So we’ll go on to our structural work group. And here we’ll have Nick Gordon from Tesla
lead us through where we are with structural and how we’re going to move forward from
here. And it looks like we might have – oh no. Wait. Nick, can you hear us Nick? Can you guys hear anything? There’s a lot of background noise. Maybe try – Yeah. I had to switch to a computer. My phone wasn’t working. We’ll give this a shot. Yeah. Sounds pretty good. So I’m Nick Gordon. I’m the manager of the professional engineering
team here at Tesla. I’m a licensed professional engineer in
16 or 17 states. At this point I’ve been in the structural
and civil engineering industry for about 14 years both on the design side and on the contracting
and construction side of the business on a wide spectrum of projects from concrete and
steel high rises to smaller timber structures as well doing some heavy civil work. Specifically been involved in the solar industry
for about five years now at Tesla in the capacity of reviewing thousands of residential homes
for suitability of installation for photovoltaic systems, guidance of codes and standards within
internal policies on the Tesla side, working with building departments to help them refine
the process in the past and address what are their core concerns from a structural engineering
standpoint when we’re talking about installing photovoltaic systems. I’ll hand it off to Ali real quick to give
you a quick introduction of where his background is too. Yeah. And Ali it looks like you’ll need to unmute
yourself as well. Ok. I think that’s good now. Yeah, yeah. Hey. Hi everyone. My name is Ali Hajiashemi. I’m the staff civil engineer at Sunrun. I’m also licensed engineer in multiple states,
worked in solar industry for about four years. Yeah. And I’m helping Nick and the other structural
subgroup members putting together criteria for structural eligibility of the SolarAPP. Yeah, I guess Nick if you have anything to
add. Thank you. Yeah. Thanks Ali. So the approach that we’ve taken for structural
qualification within SolarAPP it started from the ground up with ensuring safe code compliant
installations while keeping the process really simple and streamlined and sort of minimal
impact to a lot of process on the ____ side. We’re looking toward the approaches used
by jurisdictions like Las Vegas and Los Angeles and several others around the United States
and applying the process to homes with more recent construction built using modern building
codes. This process is supported by a lot of perspective
compliance methods that are in existence in current international model codes for additions
and alterations to existing structures. And we’re looking to just verify the photovoltaic
system does not impose more than a minimal impact compared to the weight that the structure
was originally designed to support. This transformative approach really exists
already within the current solar permitting guidebooks, within permitting processes and
jurisdictions around the country. But through SolarAPP we’re trying to encourage
a wider and more consistent adoption of that procedure for structures that are going to
be holding up solar systems. Not all homes are necessarily going to fit
within this procedure. But because there’s restrictions based on
home age and PV system weight, roof pitch, local wind speed, snow, roof coverings, etcetera. But through using the swaths of data that
we have at our disposal as contractors for Sunrun and Tesla we were able to verify that
even within these constraints we can hit a lot of homes, a large majority of homes within
the United States are going to fall within this program and really reduce the load that
falls on building departments a lot of times for individual review. We’re also relying on the ratings and installation
criteria provided by module manufacturers _____ attachment hardware manufacturers to
ensure compliance with those local design criteria. And this is sort of future proofing the product
for innovation and changes within that market sector without limiting the ability over building
departments to use this tool in the future. Similar to what Mark was talking about on
the electrical side. We’re trying to focus more of the structural
verification on the installation and inspection side to verify that we have structurally sound
buildings, that we have no signs of structural deterioration using a variety of checklists
and training materials. And yeah. This process is still quite a work in progress. And we’re looking for partnerships and inputs
through our local jurisdictions, other engineers within the market and manufacturers in the
industry for further participation and development. So very excited to be a part of this. Thank you Jeff and I’ll hand it back to
you now. Yeah. Thanks Nick so much and I jumped the gun a
little bit on the Fire side so we’ll go back actually a couple slides to circle back
to this. And sorry. We’ll start maybe Dara if you wouldn’t
mind introducing yourself as well. And then we’ll circle back a little bit
on the Fire side. Yeah. No problem. Hey. I’m Dara. I am basically Val’s counterpart at Sunrun. We have very similar backgrounds. But I am the senior manager for permit and
inspections at Sunrun. So my teams and I support the permit coordinators
and the inspection techs out in the field. Thanks Mark. Out in the field for Sunrun nationally meaning
we set up internal process tools, help train and handle escalation. As Mark mentioned we also work closely with
design and engineering to maintain a jurisdictional requirements database which I hope with the
SolarAPP will one day be much, much smaller than it is today. If not you can just throw it all out. But I started in solar in 2008 as a permit
coordinator and inspection coordinator for Solar City, now Tesla. And it was also about the time when Cal fire
first issued the guidelines for solar and requirements for setback access pathways. So at that time the fire departments would
actually sit down with you to do plan checks or many of them would. So I had the benefit of meeting the fire marshals,
the captains and learning firsthand what they were looking for with solar and what’s important
for fire safety. So since then I’ve stayed in the permitting
and inspection world. I’m really excited to be working on this
project and also our Fire working group. Punt it back to Charles to talk a little bit
about our approach. Thanks. Thanks Dara. Yeah. This task group’s work I think began with
a pretty simple question that guided our process and our approach. What are the core topics that need to be addressed
from a fire safety and first responder perspective during the permit submittal process today
and how would that fit into an online model in the future? Now we got a bit of a head start from some
of the great work that was done by others on this call that we heard from earlier. That said we tried to pool our collective
experience and try to come up with a list that was as comprehensive as possible that
then at the same time try to keep it distinct from requirements that we commonly see addressed
by other guidance documents such as other electrical and structural guidebooks and checklists
that are already out there. Now obviously our expertise and our experience
has limits. If you ever meet me in person you’ll tell
by the beard that I’m not actually a firefighter though I’ve spent a lot of time hanging
out with them. I wouldn’t pretend to view this through
the lens that a first responder or a building official for example working on their behalf
might look at a problem. So to that end our group I think has hit a
place where we recognize our process and our approach has limitations and what we need
next is bringing in these AHJ and enforcement community voices to validate the items we’ve
selected so far as relevant to fire prevention and safety. And we’d also very much like to hear feedback
from that enforcement community where these topics that we’ve selected once we validate
those topics where do those issues and those requirements make the most sense to land and
where can they be most efficiently verified on the permitting side or perhaps on the inspection
side like we heard earlier. So I think keeping in line with the scope
and stated goal of the SolarAPP project in general we want to especially want to consider
the approach that jurisdictions that have had success with implementing an attestation
or affirmation method of enforcement on the permitting side with final verification and
adherence to requirements happening at inspection like we’re hearing from some of the pioneers
on this call. So looking forward to working with some important
stakeholders to build out a more complete picture of fire safety requirements that can
be affirmed by installers at the time of permit. Thanks. Yeah. Thanks for that Charles and appreciate that
input. And then now we’ll move back on. So we went through structural. And again all three work groups are just starting
their processes as well. And so we’re really looking for input from
all the organizations we’ve already discussed this with as well as those on the call. So now we can wrap up here. We’ve made it pretty much to the end of
the webinar. And we almost made it on time which is great
with five minutes left. So I wanted to first revisit the slide about
what are the next steps and what could we really use from folks here. And that’s again listed here. So we really are looking for folks from an
AHJ perspective which is a lot of those of you on this call to participate in this process
and get involved either in reviewing the requirements that we develop or actually testing and piloting
new software like Modesto and some of our other partners are going to do. So I wanted to leave this here in addition
to including my contact information as well which it will be there again. And now we do – we were able to get Tyler
Boshard from Sun Power on the line. Tyler are you there? And can you go ahead and introduce yourself? And Sun Power is a partner in this project. Are you there? I am here and sorry I’m in the field with
network issues so I’ve been dropping in and out. No worries. We can hear you now. So I am currently managing the design and
engineering group for Sun Power residential and working with our various expertise in
both the manufacturing side of Sun Power and the installation side to end all of our dealer
network to figure out how we can use all of that information we have from our various
branches and how to figure out a way to be more efficient for everybody while maintaining
safety. Yeah. I don’t know what all info you want to hear. No. That’s a great intro. And thanks for that Tyler. We’re very much looking forward to having
you. And we do also have – and I wasn’t able
to confirm. It looks like we’ve got Jim Rogers on and
he’s in IAEI rep. And I was hoping maybe Jim you could just
give a little perspective on what IAEI is and how we’ll be engaging that organization
going forward. Yeah. So I am on the international board of directors
for IAEA which is the International Association of Electrical Inspectors. I also happen to be the chair of code making
panel four representing IAEI in that position. So I’m deeply involved in the code process
for PV installations. And throughout the northeast I’ve been training
AHJs on the permitting process along with Rudy. And Rudy is actually the one that introduced
me to this workgroup. So I look forward to working with you going
forward. Yeah. Appreciate that James and thanks for being
willing to do this last minute introduction on the fly. All right. Well, that’s – we do. I apologize for those of you that submitted
questions. We aren’t really going to be able to engage
them. But what I can say is that I’m looking at
them now and a lot of them deal directly with sort of how do we implement this and what
are some of the key types of systems that will be included in the application and those
that might still have to be done by an over the counter process or going into the office. And so those are things we’ll be working
out in the work groups themselves. So actively we’ll conclude those questions
you’ve developed in that. The one question I can speak to is that we
will be publishing a recording of this webinar. I know previously I mentioned we’d be also
distributing the slides but they will be included within the recording itself. And it usually takes about a week to get that
recording done. So we’ll publish that as well and everyone
should get a link to that when it’s finished. And so I think I will leave you with that. And thanks everyone for your time and we look
forward to working with all of you going forward.

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