The City of Chicago launched Chicago Solar Express, a streamlined permitting, zoning and interconnection process for those seeking to place solar installations on residential and commercial properties. The project aims to slash wait times for solar permits for small installations from 30 days to one day, cut fees by 25 percent and simplify and streamline key processes.
The reforms are made possible with the assistance of a $750,000 SunShot grant received from the Department of Energy (DOE) as part its SunShot Rooftop Solar Challenge.
In addition to cutting the permitting process from 30 days to one day, the fee schedule decreased from $375 to $275, a 25 percent reduction. Chicago’s Department of Buildings has published new guidelines, outlining clear steps for general contractors to follow for designing both small and large systems to city standards, making requirements clearer. For large rooftop solar arrays, the new guidelines update structural design requirements to recognize improvements in the design of ballasted systems over recent years.
Other reforms include simplifying the zoning process by providing policy interpretation and design guidance for all solar types in all sectors and streamlining the process for connecting solar panels to the electric grid.
The Online Interconnection and Net Metering Enrollment, a tool to be launched by ComEd by year-end, will allow applicants to submit, track, and pay for applications through an online platform. This will enable applicants to connect their solar generator to the grid and receive credit on their bills for producing their own electricity.
Finally, the new policy introduces flexibility for projects covered by the Sustainable Development Policy, a set of requirements for large developments going through the planned development process or receiving city financial assistance. Launched in 2004, the Sustainable Development Policy requires large developments to install vegetated green roofs and pursue LEED certification. Under the updated policy, these projects can swap a portion of their green roof requirement for solar panels.
To make access to solar for Chicagoans as easy as possible, the city has launched a new website for solar, with a step-by-step process for getting rooftop solar approved, installed, and connected.