NREL Software Automates Residential Solar Permitting, Replacing Painstaking Process for Local Governments

#sp3637, #energy


  1. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released a pilot version of a no-cost, no-touch software system for cities and counties across the country to streamline rooftop solar permits in late 2020
  2. Besides gaining efficiency, local governments can count on SolarAPP to increase permitting fee revenue, enhance local resilience, establish safe solar-grid connections, and accelerate job growth in solar energy
  3. SolarAPP is beneficial for both compliant and non-compliant solar project designs. If a system is compliant, SolarAPP will approve the design and issue a permit instantly. If a system is not compliant, SolarAPP will decline the application and clarify why the system was not code-compliant, allowing the contractor to go back and revise their application in real time
  4. SolarAPP is compatible with local government permitting software, including Accela and OpenGov, which serve thousands of local governments across the United States


  1. Government officials
  2. Contractors
  3. Private Citizens


  1. NREL to start a campaign and market the app
  2. Target marketing to areas with 150 and more days of sunshine
  3. Work with local government for subsidies

The Smart Windows in Movies Are Here

  1. Problem – Energy and Health

During the hot summer days, traditional windows allow in a lot of heat, radiation, and glare, causing the room temperature to increase. The consequent energy use for cooling increases drastically. Minimizing sunlight is not a solution, since it is believed that sunlight triggers the release of serotonin, which is a mood boosting natural chemical. It is increasingly popular for homes and offices to adopt floor to ceiling windows to maximize sunlight, but with it the HVAC energy consumption increases.

2. Technology – View’s Immersive Experience with Smart Windows

  • 825 Third Avenue in NYC is the first building to incorporate smart windows
  • The smart windows increase natural light, improve human health, and reduce energy consumption by blocking heat and glare
  • The windows are also transparent, digital screens with touch displays that enable communications. 
  • It uses AI to automatically adjust in response to the sun, increasing access to natural light and decreasing glare. 

3. Stakeholders

  • Building owners and developers – the installing of smart windows can potentially increase rent and attract quality tenants. 
  • Individuals and corporations renting in the building – experience lower energy consumption and increase in work efficiency through the use of smart windows
  • Construction companies – installing smart windows is a much more complicated process than traditional windows
  • Designers and architects – they can now incorporate this into the blueprint
  • Maintenance crew – smart windows would require more maintenance and cleaning. 

4. Steps

  • Consider the use of View’s smart windows by creating financial models to measure the overall costs and benefits
  • The design/architecture team must incorporate the technology in the design and collaborate with electricians to plan the wiring
  • Begin installation/construction

LEDs and CSEs: Upgraded Street Lighting in Surrey, UK

Emily Tregidgo – emt2179

1) Sustainability problem: Energy

Street lighting comprises 15-40% of an average city’s energy consumption1. Street lighting therefore contributes to a city’s emissions. In the UK specifically, 60% of the CO2 emissions from the Transport for London Road Network (TLRN) lighting assets are from street lights2.  As such, technology that improves the sustainability of street lighting could be impactful in improving energy consumption, efficiency, and its associated emissions. 

2) Sustainability Technology: LEDs and CMS

89,000 new intelligent street lights to save 7,700 tonnes of carbon a year in Surrey, UK

  • Urban Control, a smart cities technology company, is partnering with DW Windsor to upgrade Surrey County Council’s street lights. The effort will replace or retrofit 89,000 street lamps. Urban Control will also roll out an upgrade to the existing central management system (CMS).
  • The streetlights will use energy efficient LEDs, which are expected to provide energy savings of ~60%. 
  • The updated CMS will provide the Council with data on the county’s lighting, energy use, and maintenance. 
  • Skanska, the Council’s street light contractor, and Urban Control are also coordinating the roll out of the new program with the decommissioning of the former CMS such that there are no gaps in coverage. 
  • It is anticipated that this technology will save ~7.7k tonnes of carbon emissions each year.

3) Stakeholders

  • Urban Control
  • DW Windsor
  • Skanska
  • Surrey County Council
  • Surrey residents and businesses
  • LED lighting companies

4) The First Three Steps in Deploying This Technology

  • Raise awareness of the changes being implemented amongst the residents and businesses 
  • Ensure stakeholders are coordinated for the replacement and retrofitting process 
  • Monitor the performance of the new system and the data that it collects


1Energy efficiency and pay-back calculation on street lighting systems

2Transport for London’s Energy Efficiency Street Lighting Programme (EESLP)

89,000 new intelligent street lights to save 7,700 tonnes of carbon a year in Surrey, UK

Sun doing the cooling?

Sustainability Problem: Energy + Safety and Health

Air conditioners produce about 117 million metric tons of CO2 annually and make up about 6% of all electricity produced in the US. To homeowners, this accounts to a total cost of $29 billion. 

Cooling is important for the safety and health of people, especially when people are working in hot conditions for a long duration. Extreme heat, especially longer exposure to extreme heat can cause heat exhaustion, heat strokes and death. More than 600 people in the US die from extreme heat each year. 

Sustainability Technology: FedEx Ground’s Solar Thermal Air Conditioning System

  • At Fedex Ground’s sorting facility in Davenport, Florida, the solar thermal air conditioning system provides cooling for packages that are not usually insulated as well as for workers who have to load and sort packages for prolonged periods of time in the heat.
  • This technology provides thermal comfort for workers and also cuts down the work air conditioner compressors have to do to provide cooling.
  • Solar thermal panels mounted on the roof of the distribution center take the sunlight and convert it to heat which is used to heat the compressed fluid inside the air conditioners.
  • This solar thermal technology will reduce energy demand by 33% and reduce 11.4 metric tons of CO2 per year.
  • For more information, please see


  • Fedex Upper Management
  • Facilities Management Team
  • Fedex employees

First 3 steps in deploying this technology (at another building):

  • Perform an energy audit
  • Assess condition of the roof to check for the viability of a solar thermal panel
  • Check existing air conditioners and test the technology


Uni: rm3851

Solar Panels Under Your Feet

  1. Problem 

Energy. Traditional photovoltaic energy is obtained from roof solar panels or standing solar panels. In some areas, these solar panels are difficult to install. 

“It is very interesting that in the USA, for example, there are some places in the southern states where due to tornado threat it is difficult to install a solar panel.” 

They also take up space, putting a limit on how much solar energy can be produced. 

2. Tech – Platio’s Solar-powered pavement. 

  • Platio places solar panels on a plastic brick using a special pressuring method
  • The brick under the solar panel is made from recycled plastic. 1 square meter of the solar pavement is equivalent of 400 recycled PET bottles.
  • 1 solar pavement unit provides about 20 W of energy, and 20 square meters is enough to power the yearly average electric need of a household
  • This technology allows solar energy to be harvested in locations where conventional solar technologies cannot be installed.

3. Stakeholders

  • Households: this can be implemented for residential homes
  • City planners: can be used in smart cities such as pedestrian walkways or parks
  • Sustainability division of companies: can be used in outdoor areas of office buildings

4. Steps

  • Determine the amount of space that can be dedicated to installing solar pavement
  • Estimate the total solar energy that can be produced by this determined space
  • Consider the downside of the technology such as aesthetics, difficulty of installation, before making final decision.

Solar Lighting

  1. Area of Sustainability: Energy

    For most commercial buildings, lighting constitutes as the highest electricity user compared to other single uses. Additionally, many office buildings do not take advantage of daylighting, either because it is infeasible in some buildings or they don’t have the right design tools. Only employees sitting by the window receive natural sunlight. Studies show that daylight improves an occupant’s health and well being as well as productivity. An average person in the US spends over 90% indoors, without natural light.
  2. Technology Solution: Solar Lighting
  • Parans has developed a daylight system that uses fiber-optic cables that deliver natural light captured by solar roof collectors (pictured above). The sunlight collectors are designed track the sun’s movement and therefore capture maximum sunlight. The free and renewable resource that is sunlight, would therefore also lower a building’s total energy usage from lighting.
  • This technology can provide natural light to the interior of the building as well as the basement – the two areas that typically lack access natural light. This light can be distributed as Point Light, Ceiling Light and/or Wall Light.
  • Originally a Swedish company, the technology is being integrated in many parts of the world. Lumenomics has partnered with Parans and is now the US distributor of their daylight systems.
  • This system is being used in healthcare facilities like NICU at Denver’s Presbyterian St. Lukes Medical Center, at University of Arizona’s Innovative Health Sciences Building, and even in Rijnands Tunnel in Netherlands, where lighting is crucial to avoid accidents.
  • For more information, please see Paran’s website: and

3. Organizational Stakeholders:

  • Owners of buildings
  • Facilities Management Team
  • Occupants of the building
  • If its not a building, but an infrastructure project like the Rijnands Tunnel, then the local government and all contractors involved

4. First 3 steps in deploying this technology in a new building (since this technology already exists):

  • Setting up an initial meeting/call with Parans to gather more information
  • Assessment of the building
  • Installation of the lighting system according to preferred lighting spread (point, ceiling and/or wall)

Uni: rm3851




Electrifying Bus Fleets in Charlotte, NC – (Pilot Program)

  1. Public-private partnership between Duke Energy and Charlottes Area Transit System(CATS) will pilot a program to utilize 18 battery operated bus vehicles in the city and surrounding areas. Program to begin in early 2022 and span over 12-18 months
  2. Pilot program is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge, and FTA(Federal Transit Administration) and CATS Capital Investment Program will fund the pilot program.
  3. Some challenges as CATS collects and assesses the data are:
    1. high upfront cost
    2. performance of the busses for long and frequent routes
    3. finding/testing manufacturers that best suite city’s weather, topography and needs


  1. Charlottes Area Transit System(CATS)
  2. Duke Energy – subsidiary of eTransEnergy
  3. Residents of Charlotte, NC and surrounding areas
  4. Federal Transit Administration(FTA)

Three steps to deploy the technology (assuming funding is in place)

  1. Work with manufacturers that are interested in participating in the program and bus selection
  2. Identify charging needs and potential charging stations and associated infrastructure to support the stations, as buses will draw more energy than the electric cars
  3. Identify bus routes and areas that the program will serve based on above

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)

1. Problem: Outdated Metering Infrastructure 

The electricity sector is approximately 25% of U.S. annual greenhouse gas emissions. Outdated energy infrastructure generates damaging environmental impacts with higher energy costs. Residential and commercial customers lack visibility of their energy consumption. Antiquated systems provide inaccurate meter readings that impact billing and generate operational and energy inefficiencies. As electric vehicle adoption increases alongside distributed energy generation sources, new measurement infrastructure is needed to prevent the grid from being overloaded. Utilities play a critical role in decarbonization yet face many challenges. 

2. Solution: Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) 

Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) enables utilities to gain visibility of energy usage to make more informed decisions and meet customer demand. AMI enables utilities to predict outage risk and respond faster. AMI also provides customers more control over electricity consumption with new tools and techniques. Features include:

— Near real-time smart grid predictive management of energy supply and demand. 
— Edge computing over 5G networks to provide scalable IoT cloud integration. 
— Advanced streaming analytics with AI that collects and reacts to energy data. 
— Energy insights surfaced on a dashboard to inform data-driven decisions. 
— Platform to trade electricity among customers and provide energy services.

Smart Meters 

Smart meters are electronic devices that measure energy use with data captured in 15-minute intervals. This data is securely sent to portals that can be accessed by customers and utilities. As smart meters are widely adopted, utilities can provide customers energy at the lowest cost and lowest environmental impact. ConEdison is installing 5 million smart meters over the next year. 

3. Stakeholders

Key constituents in the AMI and smart meter ecosystem include:

— Utilities: ConEdison in New York, PG&E in California, and Oncor in Texas are examples of utility companies that provide AMI solutions and smart meters to customers.  
— Technology Providers: Companies such as IBM provide AMI cloud services and Siemens develop smart meters used by utility companies. 
— Commercial and Complex Billing Customers: These customers gain insights on cost and usage trends. This includes tracking consumption to uncover energy efficiency opportunities. 
— Residential Customers: These customers track near real-time energy usage with comparison to similar homes and saving tips.
— Electric Vehicle Charging Companies: Charging stations integrate AMI and smart meters to collect and share energy consumption data with utilities.
— Policymakers: Federal and State politicians impact the financing of energy budgets and the rollout of programs that promote AMI and smart meters. 

4. Implementation

Once a residential, commercial, or complex billing customer decides to get a smart meter, the following steps are taken:

1. The customer contacts the utility company to request smart meter installation availability.  
2. Once eligibility is confirmed, an approved vendor completes the installation on location. 
3. Approximately 2 weeks after installation, customers access tools on their account dashboard. 
4. Near real-time usage, comparison, and analysis data surface energy efficiency opportunities. 

— Enable an advanced metering infrastructure. IBM:
— Smart Meter Features and Benefits. ConEdison:
— Sources of Greenhouse Gases. EPA:

ClearRoad provides cloud-based solutions for a smart roads management

Which problem are we facing?

The transportation sector is the largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter in the United States, accounting for a 28% of total US of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2018. Cars, trucks, commercial aircraft, and railroads, among other sources, all contribute to transportation end-use sector emissions.

Goverments need to find effective mechanisms to raise awareness and cut down congestion. One of the best approached to address this issue has proven to be road tolling & pricing, a system that also enables goverments to capture revenue.

Sustainability problems: Energy, Civic Engagement, Safety and Health.

How can we address the problem?

As the road usage pioneer, ClearRoad has developed a version of congestion pricing that is affordable to most cities nd has the potential to reduce emissions up to 20 percent due to reductions in vehicles and less driving overall. This innovative technology is a low-cost version of historically high-cost yet proven programs from around the world. Specifically, ClearRoad leverages data and GPS (already being generated in cars) through machine learning and synchronization protocols. The result is flexible and adaptable road management tools for governments to reduce emissions and congestion, prioritizing community.

Additionally, ClearRoad is deploying a per-mile fee for electric vehicles (EV) as an alternative to current disincentivizing policies. Due to anticipated gas tax revenue shortages, 28 states have instituted surcharges to EV owners on their annual registrations, which can inadvertently suppress EV adoption by 25 percent.

Source: “NYC Has an Old-Timey Plan to Fix Its Traffic Future”, Wired,

Benefited organizational stakeholders: Goverments and Transportation Systems managers.

Next steps to implement smart road tolling & pricing:

  1. Verify in each city that the road programs in place work with ClearRoad’s platform
  2. Start Collecting data from users
  3. Adopt and implement a charging system of tolls or fees

Other sources: ClearRoad website

A greenhouse that lets you produce crops and electricity simultaneously

  1. Sustainability Problem: Food production will continue to be an exigent issue tied with population growth. The development of greenhouses has been revolutionary, but they are expensive to install and operate. Soliculture provides a sustainable solution that creates clean energy and optimizes growing practices.
  2. The LUMO technology commercialized by Soliculture and Solaria Corporation utilizes the Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic Systems (WSPVs) to enhance light quality by converting green light to red light. The optimized light spectrum enhances power production from the solar panels and facilitates plant growth. Other features are as follows:
    • Reduces capital cost of installation – from solar energy incentives and grants
    • Offsets electricity bill with sustainable solar energy production
    • No harm on plants and energy production – positive effects on plant growth
    • Land use efficiency – co-producing crops and electricity
    • Energy monitoring with user-friendly online software


Soliculture | Innovative Technology

This solar greenhouse could change the way we eat | UCSC NewsCenter

Solar greenhouses generate electricity and grow crops at the same time, UC Santa Cruz study reveals | UCSC NewsCenter

  1. Stakeholders:
    • Citizens around the world
    • Urban farms
    • Agriculture industry
    • Energy Markets
    • Energy Industry
    • Building contractors and architects
    • Groceries and supermarkets
  2. Next steps:
    • Do a feasibility study and engage with stakeholders to improve relations
    • Reach an agreement on costs and economic outlook
    • Initiate pilot-scale project through government funding


By: Timothy Wiranata

UNI: tw2618

Comment on Conserving water, one shower at a time.:

“This is an innovative technology that building contractors should really think about when equipping shower heads in accommodation units. The technology does not only saves water but also saves money through savings on water/utility bill. The website even has a feature to count your annual savings!”