Solar Codes and Standards
Solar energy systems must be built in compliance with construction, electricty, and fire codes in order to be safe and reliable.
Most of the standards for solar systems are set forth in the National Electrical Code (NEC), which provides specifications on equipment, installation methods, and design protocols. In addition to the NEC, the International Residential Code (IRC) includes standards that apply to solar hot water systems and solar PV systems. Unique components of solar thermal and hot water systems are governed by the International Mechanical Code (IMC). The International Fire Code (IFC) establishes solar provisions relating to fire access and fire safety. The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) contains specifications for onsite renewable energy generation in the commercial sector. The International Codes Council publishes the IRC, IFC, IECC (among other codes) and the National Fire Protection Association publishes the NEC. The see the tabs below for information about how these codes apply to solar. The Solar America Board for Codes and Standards (Solar ABCs) is a national non-profit organizaiton that formally coordinates the planning and revision of solar codes and standards. The Solar ABCs is a centralized repository for the collection and dissemination of documents, regulations, and technical materials related to solar codes and standards.
Code Enforcement in Utah
In Utah, the Uniform Building Code Commission and the Utah Fire Prevention Board make recommendations to the Utah Legislature on building and energy codes and electric codes, respectively. Each body convenes code review committees to help develop new recommendations. The legislature determines which parts of the code are adopted or amended. Once the code is in statute, it is up to individual jurisdictions to enforce the codes through their permitting and inspection processes. Rocky Mountain Power’s net metering tariff and applicable net metering and interconnection agreements require compliance with the following codes:
- IEEE standards
- National Electric Code Standards
- Utah Building Codes
- Utah Interconnection Rules
- Other applicable standards required by the Utah Public Service Commission
Code Requirements for Rooftop Solar in Utah
- IBC 1507.17.2 (IRC R905.16.2) Attachment. Photovoltaic modules/shingles shall be attached in accordance with the manufacturer's installation instructions.
- IBC 1507.17.1 (IRC R905.16.2) Material standards. Photovoltaic modules/shingles shall be listed and labeled in accordance with UL1703.
IBC Section 1507.17.3 (IRC R905.16.3) details the wind resistance requirements for PV modules/ shingles used as roof coverings. For PV systems adhered or attached to the roof covering, use the relevant code section from IBC 1507 (IRC R905) for the roof covering.2012 code language:
- IBC 1507.17.3 (IRC R905.16.3) Wind resistance. Photovoltaic modules/shingles shall be tested in accordance with procedures and acceptance criteria in ASTM D 3161. Photovoltaic modules/shingles shall comply with the classification requirements of Table 1507.2.7.1(2) for the appropriate maximum nominal design wind speed. Photovoltaic modules/shingle packaging shall bear a label to indicate compliance with the procedures in ASTM D 3161 and the required classification from Table 1507.2.7.1(2).
To learn more about wind and snow considerations with solar in Utah please click here.
IBC Section 1505.8 requires that all BIPV modules be tested and labeled as Class A, B, or C in accordance with the methods of ASTM 108 or Underwriters Laboratories® (UL) 790, Standard Test Methods for Fire Tests of Roof Coverings. The fire classification rating must meet the requirements in Section 1505.2012 code language:
- IBC 1505.8 Photovoltaic systems. Rooftop installed photovoltaic systems that are adhered or attached to the roof covering or photovoltaic modules/shingles installed as roof coverings shall be labeled to identify their fire classification in accordance with the testing required in Section 1505.1.
Utah Fire Code specifies minimum perimeters around solar panels to ensure firefighters are able to access the roof. Utah Fire Code
While all relevant sections of the above codes may also apply to solar thermal systems, thier installation requirements are covered in detail in the International Mechanical Code (IMC) chapter 14.For the general system installation, see IMC Section 1402, which covers Access, equipment, collectors, penetrations, filtering, and more.Section 1403 requires that flammable gases/liquids shall not be utilized as heat transfer fluid and that the flash point of the actual heat transfer fluid shall not be less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit above the design maximum non-operating temperature of the fluid attained in the collector.Section 1404 requires that factory-built collectors and thermal storage units be listed and labeled with component specifications and parameters.
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