Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and a slate of Bay Area officials came to a solar-powered South Berkeley home Friday to promote a new federal tool that aims to speed up permitting for solar projects.

Called Solar Automated Permit Processing Plus, or SolarAPP+, local governments can use the optional tool to automate and speed up their review and approval processes. The U.S. Department of Energy, which developed the tool at its National Renewable Energy Laboratory, hopes that will make installing solar panels cheaper, faster and ultimately more popular in cities across the country.

“We want to make it accessible to everyday citizens,” Granholm said. “The SolarAPP makes it super easy — cut the red tape, cut the bureaucracy, make it simple for those who just want to find out, ‘Should I put solar on my home?’”

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, who spoke at Friday’s event, said the city is working to implement the SolarAPP+ tool. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said her city is also looking into the tool as well.

According to the Department of Energy, SolarAPP+ “automatically conducts code compliance checks to ensure safety and generates a standardized inspection checklist for installers and inspectors to use to verify compliance in the field.” The department has set a goal of getting 125 local governments to sign up for more information about the program by September.

Granholm, the former governor of Michigan, also toured Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory with U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee during her visit Friday.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to remove a reference to the time it took the city of Berkeley to approve a solar panel permit application. City records show the permit was approved within 24 hours.

Nico Savidge joined Berkeleyside in 2021 as a senior reporter covering city hall. Born and raised in Berkeley, he got his start in journalism at Youth Radio as a high-schooler in the mid-2000s. Since then,...