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Permitting and Inspection

*Pre-requisite for SolSmart designation

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Providing a set of requirements for the local solar permitting process (for both residential and commercial solar) on an easy-to-find local government webpage represents a major step toward overcoming informational barriers. An online solar permit checklist can be a simple way for a community to accelerate permit approval timelines and save staff time by reducing the number of inquiries received from solar installers and requests for additional information associated with incomplete permit applications. Such checklists typically detail all the plans and forms required for approval and system design requirements.
Recommended Verification:

·         Provide a link to the online solar PV permitting checklist.

Community Examples:

·         Chapel Hill, NC | SolSmart Gold

·         Philadelphia, PA | SolSmart Gold

Templates:

·         PI-1 SolSmart Solar Permitting Checklist Template | SolSmart

·         California Solar Permitting Guidebook (4th Edition) (pg. 22-24)

Resources:

·         Sharing Success: Emerging Approaches to Efficient Rooftop Solar Permitting | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Simplifying the Solar Permitting Process: Residential Solar Permitting Best Practices Explained | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Solar PV Construction: Codes, Permitting, and Inspection | SolSmart’s Toolkit for Local Governments

*Pre-requisite for SolSmart Silver - 10 points

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Regular solar PV training, at least every few years, is a best practice to ensure permit technicians and plan reviewers are up-to-date on new procedures, codes, and products within the solar industry. Trainings increase staff knowledge of solar energy systems and ensures they know the best procedures for permit application review and processing to ensure applications and supporting documents are compliant with building and electrical codes. Increased staff knowledge can improve processing efficiency, thereby reducing demands on staff time and resources. Local governments can require staff to attend full or half-day workshops (either live or online) and provide resources designed to help keep staff informed about advances in solar and storage technologies.
Recommended Verification:

·         Provide a memo with details about the permit training including name of training, name of trainer, attendees (name, title, department), date and time, location, agenda, and presentation/slides.

Templates:

·         PI-2 SolSmart Solar Permit Training Template Memo | SolSmart

Resources:

·         SolSmart Workshop: Best Practices for Solar PV Permitting and Inspection (session 1, permitting I) | SolSmart and Bill Brooks, P.E.

·         SolSmart Workshop: Best Practices for Solar PV Permitting and Inspection (session 2, permitting II) | SolSmart and Bill Brooks, P.E.

·         SolSmart Workshop: Best Practices for Solar PV Permitting and Inspection (session 3, inspection) | | SolSmart and Bill Brooks, P.E.

·         Solar + Storage, A Guide for Local Governments | SolSmart Webinar

*Pre-requisite for SolSmart Silver and Gold designation. 20 points

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Regular solar PV training, at least every few years, is a best practice to ensure field inspectors are up-to-date on new procedures, codes, and products within the solar industry. Trainings increase staff knowledge of solar energy systems and ensures they know the best procedures for field inspections to ensure compliance with applicable state and local building and electrical codes. Increased staff knowledge can improve inspection efficiency, thereby reducing demands on staff time and resources. Local governments can require staff to attend full or half-day workshops (either live or online) and provide resources designed to help keep staff informed about advances in solar and storage technologies.
Recommended Verification:

·         Provide a memo with details about the inspection training including name of training, name of trainer, attendees (name, title, department), date and time, location, agenda, and presentation/slides.

Templates:

·         PI-3 SolSmart Solar Inspection Training Template Memo | SolSmart

Resources:

·         Solar PV Field Inspection Basics – Series | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         SolSmart Workshop: Best Practices for Solar PV Permitting and Inspection (session 1, permitting I) | SolSmart and Bill Brooks, P.E.

·         SolSmart Workshop: Best Practices for Solar PV Permitting and Inspection (session 2, permitting II) | SolSmart and Bill Brooks, P.E.

·         SolSmart Workshop: Best Practices for Solar PV Permitting and Inspection (session 3, inspection) | SolSmart and Bill Brooks, P.E.

·         Solar + Storage, A Guide for Local Governments | SolSmart Webinar

Pre-requisite for SolSmart Gold designation. 20 points

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Implementing a streamlined permitting process for small-scale solar PV systems (≤10-15 kW) along with other efforts increase process efficiency and reduce permit turnaround times can result in significant time and cost savings for staff, solar installers, and solar customers.
Recommended Verification:

·         Provide a link to a webpage outlining a permitting pathway for small PV systems of less than three days.

Community Examples:

·         Alexandria, VA |SolSmart Gold

·         Roseville, MN | SolSmart Gold

Templates:

·         PI-1 SolSmart Solar Permitting Checklist Template | SolSmart

·         California Solar Permitting Guidebook (4th Edition) (pg. 22-24)

Resources:

·         SolSmart Permitting Checklist Guidance | SolSmart

·         Sharing Success: Emerging Approaches to Efficient Rooftop Solar Permitting | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Simplifying the Solar Permitting Process: Residential Solar Permitting Best Practices Explained | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Solar PV Construction: Codes, Permitting, and Inspection | SolSmart’s Toolkit for Local Governments

5 points

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Recognizing the relative simplicity and similarities of small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems (≤10-15 kW in size) can allow local jurisdictions to establish processes to expedite review and approval of these systems while maintaining its commitment to ensuring public safety. Establishing a separate, streamlined process for small-scale PV systems based on proven national best practices can reduce the time required to review and approve qualifying applications, saving time and money both for the local government and the solar customer.
Recommended Verification:

·         Provide a link to a document or web page outlining a streamlined and standard permit review policy.

·         Provide details in an e-mail or other written documentation from a permitting official or staff member describing the policy is also acceptable.

Community Examples:

·         Philadelphia, PA | SolSmart Gold

·         Putnam County, GA | SolSmart Silver

Templates:

·         PI-1 SolSmart Solar Permitting Checklist Template | SolSmart

·         Expedited Permit Process for PV Systems | Solar ABCs

·         Simplified Solar Permitting Process | SolSmart

Resources:

·         Sharing Success: Emerging Approaches to Efficient Rooftop Solar Permitting | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Simplifying the Solar Permitting Process: Residential Solar Permitting Best Practices Explained | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Solar PV Construction: Codes, Permitting, and Inspection | SolSmart’s Toolkit for Local Governments

5 points

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Since rooftop solar energy systems impact both the structural and electrical aspects of the buildings on which they are installed, many local jurisdictions require both building and electrical permits. However, residential rooftop systems with minimal structural impacts can be safely permitted without a building permit application. Relevant design aspects for systems qualifying for only one application form include (but are not limited to): mounting system features, static and dynamic loads of the system, type of roofing material and waterproofing methods, and compliance with zoning and fire codes.
Recommended Verification:

·         Provide a link to the permit application form used for small rooftop solar PV systems.

Community Examples:

·         Berkeley, CA | SolSmart Gold

·         Fitchburg, WI | SolSmart Bronze

Templates:

·         Best Management Practices for Solar Installation Policy | Mid America Regional Council (MARC)

·         New York State Unified Solar Permit Application | New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA)

Resources:

·         Sharing Success: Emerging Approaches to Efficient Rooftop Solar Permitting | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Simplifying the Solar Permitting Process: Residential Solar Permitting Best Practices Explained | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Solar PV Construction: Codes, Permitting, and Inspection | SolSmart’s Toolkit for Local Governments

10 points

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While requiring a single application form under existing permitting processes represents an improvement over requiring both a building and electrical permit, it may still be more time consuming to complete, review, and approve permits via a process not specifically designed for solar. Developing a solar-specific permit (or combining building and electrical permits with revisions to collect information unique to solar energy systems) and posting application materials online can save time and money for both those completing the forms (and their customers) and the local government staff reviewing and approving these applications.
Recommended Verification:

·         Provide a link to the standard solar PV permit application form.

Community Examples:

·         Evanston, IL | SolSmart Gold

·         Salt Lake City, UT | SolSmart Bronze

Templates:

·         Best Management Practices for Solar Installation Policy | Mid America Regional Council (MARC)

·         New York State Unified Solar Permit Application | New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA)

·         Simplified Solar Permitting Process | SolSmart

Resources:

·         Expedited Permit Process for PV Systems | Solar ABCs

·         Sharing Success: Emerging Approaches to Efficient Rooftop Solar Permitting | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Simplifying the Solar Permitting Process: Residential Solar Permitting Best Practices Explained | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Solar PV Construction: Codes, Permitting, and Inspection | SolSmart’s Toolkit for Local Governments

20 points

Please supply documentation to support this question. You can either upload a file or provide a link. Please indicate where in your documentation we should look to find the sections that are relevant to this question.

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Online permit submittal, review, and approval can eliminate solar installer trips to the permitting office and reduce the amount of time permitting staff need to spend entering information from paper application forms into an online database. Online systems can also ensure all required information is submitted prior to any review, saving staff time by ensuring only completed applications are reviewed. Online permit platforms can allow for multiple staff to review materials at the same time and to track progress in the review and approval process.
Recommended Verification:

·         Provide a link to the online platform for submission and approval.

·         If an email-based online process is used:

1)       Provide details from building official or staff describing the process.

2)      Provide a copy of a sample email with personal and confidential information removed.

Community Examples:

·         Madison, WI | SolSmart Gold

·         Missoula County, MT | SolSmart Silver

Templates:

·         Several software providers have integrated the solar PV permit application process into their online systems.

Resources:

·         Sharing Success: Emerging Approaches to Efficient Rooftop Solar Permitting | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Simplifying the Solar Permitting Process: Residential Solar Permitting Best Practices Explained | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Solar PV Construction: Codes, Permitting, and Inspection | SolSmart’s Toolkit for Local Governments

20 points

Please supply documentation to support this question. You can either upload a file or provide a link. Please indicate where in your documentation we should look to find the sections that are relevant to this question.

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In addition to state and federal incentives, local governments can also incentivize solar development within their jurisdictions. Exempting or waiving permit fees for solar energy systems can incentivize community members to install solar by lowering the overall cost of the system.
Recommended Verification:

·         Provide a link to the permit fee schedule or other officially approved document that shows solar PV permit fees are exempt or waived.

Community Examples:

·         Coral Gables, FL | SolSmart Bronze

·         Superior, CO | SolSmart Bronze

Resources:

·         Sharing Success: Emerging Approaches to Efficient Rooftop Solar Permitting | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Simplifying the Solar Permitting Process: Residential Solar Permitting Best Practices Explained | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Solar PV Construction: Codes, Permitting, and Inspection | SolSmart’s Toolkit for Local Governments

5 points

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Many local governments permit solar systems through existing permitting processes and permit fees for solar are often calculated according to value-based methods typically associated with building permits (where the fee is a certain percentage of the overall project cost). Due to the higher cost of solar installations relative to comparable projects, fees calculated by a value-based method can become expensive and exceed the cost of the staff time required to review and issue the permits. For residential systems, capping solar permit fees under $500 or establishing a flat fee, can ensure permit fees cover staff costs without unnecessarily increasing project costs.
Recommended Verification:

·         Provide a link to the permit fee schedule or a document that outlines the permit fees applied to a solar installation.

Community Examples:

·         Naperville, IL | SolSmart Silver

·         Sacramento, CA | SolSmart Gold

Templates:

·         PI-10 SolSmart Solar Residential Fees Template Memo | SolSmart

·         PI-1 SolSmart Solar Permitting Checklist Template | SolSmart

Resources:

·         Sharing Success: Emerging Approaches to Efficient Rooftop Solar Permitting | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Simplifying the Solar Permitting Process: Residential Solar Permitting Best Practices Explained | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Solar PV Construction: Codes, Permitting, and Inspection | SolSmart’s Toolkit for Local Governments

10 points

Please supply documentation to support this question. You can either upload a file or provide a link. Please indicate where in your documentation we should look to find the sections that are relevant to this question.

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Many local governments permit solar systems through existing permitting processes and permit fees for solar are often calculated according to value-based methods typically associated with building permits (where the fee is a certain percentage of the overall project cost). Due to the higher cost of solar installations relative to comparable projects, fees calculated by a value-based method can become expensive and exceed the cost of the staff time required to review and issue the permits. For commercial systems, basing fees on a cost-recovery method can ensure permit fees cover staff costs without unnecessarily increasing project costs.
Recommended Verification:

·         Provide a link to the permit fee schedule or a document that outlines the permit fees applied to a solar installation.

·         Provide a narrative that explains the costs incurred in processing the permits (this should include estimates of the amount of staff hours for each stage of the process and the hourly cost of staff time). This narrative should show that the fee is not significantly higher than these costs.

Community Examples:

·         Naperville, IL | SolSmart Silver

·         Sacramento, CA | SolSmart Gold

Templates:

·         PI-11 SolSmart Solar Commercial Fees Template Memo | SolSmart

·         PI-1 SolSmart Solar Permitting Checklist Template | SolSmart

Resources:

·         Sharing Success: Emerging Approaches to Efficient Rooftop Solar Permitting | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Simplifying the Solar Permitting Process: Residential Solar Permitting Best Practices Explained | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

·         Solar PV Construction: Codes, Permitting, and Inspection | SolSmart’s Toolkit for Local Governments

10 points

Please supply documentation to support this question. You can either upload a file or provide a link. Please indicate where in your documentation we should look to find the sections that are relevant to this question.

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    Providing an online list of inspection requirements will reduce informational barriers between inspectors and solar installers, helping to ensure that all items in the inspection process have been adequately addressed before inspectors arrive on site. These checklists can be used to highlight “common mistakes” made by installers.
    Recommended Verification:

    ·         Provide a link to the online document outlining the inspection process and requirements.

    Community Examples:

    ·         Camden County, NJ | SolSmart Bronze

    ·         Ramsey County, MN | SolSmart Bronze

    Templates:

    ·         Field Inspection Checklist | New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA)

    ·         Model Inspection Checklist for Residential Rooftop PV | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

    Resources:

    ·         Sharing Success: Emerging Approaches to Efficient Rooftop Solar Permitting | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

    ·         Simplifying the Solar Permitting Process: Residential Solar Permitting Best Practices Explained | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

    ·         Solar PV Construction: Codes, Permitting, and Inspection | SolSmart’s Toolkit for Local Governments

    10 Points

    Please supply documentation to support this question. You can either upload a file or provide a link. Please indicate where in your documentation we should look to find the sections that are relevant to this question.

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      Inspections of standard rooftop solar energy systems installed on existing homes should be consolidated into a single inspection trip. Any inspections should be limited to the electrical, structural, and fire safety aspects of the system; excessive reviews add to the time and cost of the inspection process while doing little to ensure system efficiency or further protect public health or safety. Building and Fire Authorities can enter into agreements allowing for a single agency to conduct all inspections for systems meeting certain design standards.
      Recommended Verification:

      ·         Provide details about the solar PV inspection process that includes information on the type of inspections (and which departments are involved) and total number inspection trips required.

      Community Examples:

      ·         Lake in the Hills, IL | SolSmart Gold

      ·         South St. Paul, MN | SolSmart Bronze

      Templates:

      ·         Field Inspection Checklist | New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA)

      ·         Model Inspection Checklist for Residential Rooftop PV | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

      Resources:

      ·         Sharing Success: Emerging Approaches to Efficient Rooftop Solar Permitting | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

      ·         Simplifying the Solar Permitting Process: Residential Solar Permitting Best Practices Explained | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

      ·         Solar PV Construction: Codes, Permitting, and Inspection | SolSmart’s Toolkit for Local Governments

      10 points

      Please supply documentation to support this question. You can either upload a file or provide a link. Please indicate where in your documentation we should look to find the sections that are relevant to this question.

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        Though inspections of standard rooftop solar PV systems can take as little as 30 minutes to complete, inspection appointment windows can be up to four or more hours long. Replacing appointment windows with scheduled appointment times will ensure the inspector and installer are both prepared for the inspection to occur when they arrive on site. This can save time and money for both the local government and the installer (and for solar customers as well).
        Recommended Verification:

        ·         Provide details about the solar PV inspection process that includes information on inspection appointment times and how to request an appointment.

        Community Examples:

        ·         Coventry, CT | SolSmart Gold

        ·         Pulaski County, VA | SolSmart Gold

        Templates:

        ·         PI-1 SolSmart Solar Permitting Checklist Template | SolSmart

        Resources:

        ·         Sharing Success: Emerging Approaches to Efficient Rooftop Solar Permitting | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

        ·         Simplifying the Solar Permitting Process: Residential Solar Permitting Best Practices Explained | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

        ·         Solar PV Construction: Codes, Permitting, and Inspection | SolSmart’s Toolkit for Local Governments

        10 points

        Please supply documentation to support this question. You can either upload a file or provide a link. Please indicate where in your documentation we should look to find the sections that are relevant to this question.

        File name:

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          Similar to online permit submittal, review, and approval processes, an online option for scheduling and managing inspection requests can promote process efficiency and reduce demands on time and resources for local government staff.
          Recommended Verification:

          ·         Provide a link to the online platform for inspection scheduling.

          ·         If an email-based online process is used:

          1)       Provide details from building official or staff describing the process.

          2)      Provide a copy of a sample email with personal and confidential information removed.

          Community Examples:

          ·         Prince George’s County, MD | Not Designated

          ·         San Leandro, CA | SolSmart Bronze

          Templates:

          ·         Several software providers have integrated the solar PV inspection request process into their online systems.

          Resources:

          ·         Sharing Success: Emerging Approaches to Efficient Rooftop Solar Permitting | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

          ·         Simplifying the Solar Permitting Process: Residential Solar Permitting Best Practices Explained | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

          ·         Solar PV Construction: Codes, Permitting, and Inspection | SolSmart’s Toolkit for Local Governments

          10 points

          Please supply documentation to support this question. You can either upload a file or provide a link. Please indicate where in your documentation we should look to find the sections that are relevant to this question.

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          Regular solar PV training, at least every few years, is a best practice to ensure firefighters and first responders are up-to-date on new procedures, codes, and products within the solar industry. Though fires caused by rooftop solar PV systems are extremely rare, firefighters responding to fires caused by other means need to take special precautions when a solar PV system is present. Training fire safety staff on how to identify and avoid potential hazards can help ensure the safety of first responders and reduce misconceptions or discomfort around increased solar deployment.
          Recommended Verification:

          ·         Provide a memo with details about the fire and safety staff training including name of training, name of trainer, attendees (name, title, department), date and time, location, agenda, and presentation/slides.

          Templates:

          ·         PI-16 SolSmart Solar Fire Training Template Memo | SolSmart

          Resources:

          ·         Photovoltaic (PV) Systems | National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

          ·         Solar + Storage, A Guide for Local Governments | SolSmart Webinar

          ·         Solar PV Safety for Firefighters | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

          10 points

          Please supply documentation to support this question. You can either upload a file or provide a link. Please indicate where in your documentation we should look to find the sections that are relevant to this question.

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          Though fires and other emergencies at large-scale solar PV systems are extremely rare, fire and safety staff should partner with a large-scale solar system owner/operator to ensure first responders have a standard operating procedure (SOP) outlining how to address a fire or rescue operation at the large-scale solar project. The solar system owner/operator should work with fire responder to ensure SOPs are established and that the fire and safety staff have received any necessary training. Along with a basic understanding of solar PV and fire safety, firefighters and safety staff should be familiar with the project site and characteristics, including where to enter the site, location of system components, if battery storage is present at the site, and proper shutdown procedures. First responders should also know key points of contact for the project in case of an emergency.
          Recommended Verification:

          ·         Provide a memo with details about emergency response plans and procedures.

          ·         Provide a link to the requirement in the community’s code of ordinances.

          Community Examples:

          ·         Putnam County, GA (e , 9) | SolSmart Silver

          ·         York, ME (pg. 178 – f 3 | Not Designated

          Templates:

          ·         PI-17 SolSmart Solar Large-scale Training Template Memo | SolSmart

          Resources:

          ·         Fire Fighter Safety and Emergency Response for Solar Power Systems | The Fire Protection Research Foundation

          ·         Solar PV Safety for Firefighters | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

          10 points

          Please supply documentation to support this question. You can either upload a file or provide a link. Please indicate where in your documentation we should look to find the sections that are relevant to this question.

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          Fire and safety staff can benefit from having access to the locations of permitted solar PV systems. This gives fire departments advanced knowledge about homes or business that have on-site solar and allows them to development a plan before arriving onsite.
          Recommended Verification:

          ·         Provide details about the process for information sharing, including how fire and safety staff received the data.

          ·         Provide a link to the platform that allows fire and safety staff to access the data.

          Community Examples:

          ·         Adams County, CO | SolSmart Gold

          ·         Freeport, IL | SolSmart Gold

          Resources:

          ·         Sharing Success: Emerging Approaches to Efficient Rooftop Solar Permitting | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

          ·         Simplifying the Solar Permitting Process: Residential Solar Permitting Best Practices Explained | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

          ·         Solar PV Construction: Codes, Permitting, and Inspection | SolSmart’s Toolkit for Local Governments

          ·         Solar PV Safety for Firefighters | Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

          10 points

          Please supply documentation to support this question. You can either upload a file or provide a link. Please indicate where in your documentation we should look to find the sections that are relevant to this question.

          File name:

          File size:

          Please include 'http://' or 'https://' at the beginning of your link.

          Providing a set of requirements for the local energy storage permitting process (for both residential and commercial solar) on an easy-to-find local government web page represents a major step toward overcoming informational barriers. An online energy storage permit checklist can be a simple way for a community to accelerate permit approval timelines and save staff time by reducing the number of inquiries received from energy storage installers and requests for additional information associated with incomplete permit applications. Such checklists typically detail all the plans and forms required for approval and system design requirements.
          Recommended Verification:

          ·         Provide link to online permitting checklist for energy storage systems.

          Community Examples:

          ·         Rocklin, CA | Not Designated

          ·         Sonoma, CA | Not Designated

          Templates:

          ·         Battery Energy Storage System Model Permit | New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA)

          ·         Storage Battery System Requirements | Sustainable Energy Action Committee (SEAC)

          Resources:

          ·         Solar + Storage, A Guide for Local Governments | SolSmart Webinar

          10 points

          Please supply documentation to support this question. You can either upload a file or provide a link. Please indicate where in your documentation we should look to find the sections that are relevant to this question.

          File name:

          File size:

          Please include 'http://' or 'https://' at the beginning of your link.

          Providing an online list of inspection requirements will reduce informational barriers between inspectors and energy storage installers, helping to ensure that all items in the inspection process have been adequately addressed before inspectors arrive on site. These checklists can be used to highlight “common mistakes” made by installers.
          Recommended Verification:

          ·         Provide a link to the online document outlining the inspection process and requirements.

          Community Examples:

          ·         Palo Alto, CA | Not Designated

          Templates:

          ·         Battery Energy Storage System Electrical Checklist | New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA)

          ·         Storage Battery System Requirements | Sustainable Energy Action Committee (SEAC)

          Resources:

          ·         Solar + Storage, A Guide for Local Governments | SolSmart Webinar

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          Permitting and Inspection Point Total

          175/205*

          *Points are unverified
          Total Application Points

          175*

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