National forum launched for solar and storage code and permitting solutions
A newly launched, three-year project — supported by a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office — will bring together diverse stakeholders to identify and develop solutions to solar and solar-plus-storage code enforcement and permitting challenges.
The project builds upon, and will significantly expand, the work of the Sustainable Energy Action Committee (SEAC), an organization founded in California in 2015 as a forum for collaboration on guidelines for implementation of codes and standards for permitting and inspection practices of renewable energy systems. SEAC brings together authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) — such as local building and fire departments, contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, utilities, testing labs, and other clean energy stakeholders for collaboration and problem-solving related to solar photovoltaic (PV) installation and energy storage projects.
Under the recent U.S. Energy Department award, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) will lead the administration of SEAC and facilitate its expansion into a national forum. Other key partners in the project include the International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI), the International Code Council, UL LLC, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM), the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the U.S. Energy Storage Association, and the California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA).
The project will facilitate improvements in the permitting and inspection of solar and solar-plus-storage projects by developing consensus-based solutions to high-priority codes and standards needs. An analysis will be conducted to determine the gaps in understanding and implementation that complicate code enforcement and can deter clean energy deployment. A consensus process will then be used to develop solutions. The project will also develop a website hosting information on clean energy code and permitting best practices and include extensive outreach to facilitate uptake of these practices.
Clear and comprehensive procedures defining permitting, inspection and other requirements for solar and solar-plus-storage projects are essential to ensure the safety and quality of installed systems. By identifying and addressing unmet needs in this area the project will advance public safety objectives. Additionally, by facilitating awareness and adoption of codes and standards best practices, the project will help reduce the non-hardware “soft costs” of solar and energy storage, thus supporting greater adoption.
“With over 20,000 local jurisdictions in the U.S. that issue permits and inspect PV systems, a consensus-based process to enhance related codes and standards is a powerful opportunity to facilitate greater deployment of solar and energy storage,” said IREC President and Chief Executive Officer Larry Sherwood. “This initiative is unique in providing an open forum for all stakeholders to collaborate on these issues and IREC is honored to act as the program administrator.”
“The National Association of State Fire Marshals is pleased to partner with the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, the Sustainable Energy Action Committee and others on this important project to help provide information on enforcement and permitting solutions for solar and solar-plus-storage projects,” said Philip Oakes, NASFM national program director. “This project will help address a critical need for State Fire Marshals, AHJs, fire and emergency services, industry, and many others in this rapidly growing field.”
“As a founding member of the Sustainable Energy Action Committee, to me, there is nothing more exciting than uniting AHJs in one common cause,” said R. Steven Jones, assistant building official for the city of Oceanside, Calif. “I am proud to be part of SEAC’s work with industry stakeholders and AHJs to promote safe solar photovoltaic installations and regional consistency.”
“The city of Bakersfield is excited to be a partner in this project as it launches,” said Pete Jackson, chief electrical inspector for the building department of the city of Bakersfield and SEAC Steering Committee Member. “As one of the busiest jurisdictions in the nation for installation of renewable energy systems and a founding member of SEAC, Bakersfield looks forward to using its experience to develop consensus-based recommendations to benefit the safe and efficient installation of sustainable energy systems.”
“The adoption and implementation of building codes and standards play a major role in supporting community resilience,” said Code Council Chief Executive Officer Dominic Sims, CBO. “The International Code Council is proud to collaborate on this important project that reinforces critical code compliance efforts across the U.S.”
“In order for solar to supply 20 percent of U.S. electricity generation by 2030, we’re going to need to work through longstanding code and enforcement challenges,” said Evelyn Butler, senior director of codes and standards at SEIA. “This network will provide a space for the solar industry to proactively work together, resulting in market-friendly and efficient standards for the companies that will ultimately follow this guidance. We’re excited to see the SEAC project expand and look forward to working with our members to participate in this important forum.”
“We are looking forward to this collaboration,” said Benjamin Davis, policy associate with CALSSA. “Streamlining permitting can go a long way to safely lower soft costs, allowing more customers to go solar and reap the benefits of generating energy from their own rooftops.”
“The IAEI looks forward to another partnership opportunity with IREC and these great industry partners,” said Joseph Wages, Jr., technical advisor for education, codes and standards at IAEI. “We appreciate the opportunity to provide training and safety-related information regarding solar energy storage to the electrical professionals tasked with installing and inspecting these systems. This information is desperately needed as energy storage becomes more and more the norm.”