Clean Energy Permitting & Inspection
The permitting and inspection of clean energy systems, including solar PV and energy storage, is a critical part of the development process, helping to ensure that installed systems are safe and of high quality. However, when there is confusion about how to interpret particular codes, it can significantly slow down the process and create more work for local officials and project developers.
SEAC’s diverse membership, representing all clean energy stakeholders, works collaboratively to identify issues in existing codes like the International Building Code, the International Fire Code, and the International Residential Code. From there, SEAC’s expert members use a consensus process to develop practical solutions to these challenges. SEAC actively participates in the code making process to recommend solutions when it finds that changes are needed to the language of a specific code.
SEAC also develops solutions to other related barriers, such as lack of awareness of code requirements or existing educational resources that can help clarify code requirements.
This site houses many clean energy permitting and inspection resources, including:
Considerations for Continuing Permitting and Inspection Activities During COVID-19
Information for AHJs to consider for No-Touch Permitting and Remote Inspection practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Download the PDF of SEAC’s recommendations here, or watch the recording of our April 2020 webinar discussing No-Touch Permitting and Remote Video Inspection.
Clarifying Code Requirements for Elevated PV Support Structures (also called Solar Shade Structures or Solar Carports)
The Solar Shade Structures Working Group is developing solutions to a lack of clarity in the code requirements for solar shade structures (elevated structures with solar panels on them, often covering parking lots and referred to as solar carports) are not clear. Read its recommendations here:
- Elevated PV Support Structures – SEAC recommendation to the International Code Council (ICC) to improve the clarity of code requirements in the 2021 International Building Code for overhead photovoltaic (PV) support structures, also referred to as solar shade structures, which are commonly constructed over vehicle parking spaces.
- Rooftop-mounted PV Panel Systems – SEAC recommendation to the International Code Council (ICC) to to provide exceptions in the 2021 International Building Code that clarify that elevated PV support structures can be installed on top of a multi-story parking garage under certain conditions without impacting restrictions on number of stories, height or area. Likewise, it is recommended that under certain conditions, rooftop-mounted PV systems do not cause a building to be noncompliant with these provisions.
How to Handle Solar Permits for Sites with Outstanding Code Enforcement Issues
The Unpermitted Structures Working Group is developing recommendations for situations when issuing a solar permit may be justified despite other unresolved code enforcement issues, such as unpermitted structures or expired building permits.
Providing Clarity in the National Electrical Code
Additionally, the National Electrical Code (NEC) Working Group is contributing to revisions to the National Electrical Code with a focus on sustainable energy issues. Some of these revisions may relate to solar energy. Related resources include:
- Comment on National Electrical Code Proposal for Article 231 – This comment responds to a proposal to the National Electrical Code, Article 231.
- Comment on National Electrical Code Proposal for Section 705.1 – This comment responds to a proposal to revise the National Electrical Code, Section 705.1.
- Comment on National Electrical Code Proposal for Section 705.20 – This comment responds to a proposal to the National Electrical Code, Section 705.20.
Fire Detection Requirements for Energy Storage
The Storage Fire Detection Working Group is addressing the fact that new codes require a heat detector in garages with ESS, but there is confusion about which products are available to meet this requirement, how the installation must be done, and which standards apply. The group is working to develop a recommendation for how AHJs and installers can address the problem in the short-term. Read its recommendations here:
- Recommendations to Clarify Heat Detector Requirements in the International Fire Code – SEAC recommendation to the International Code Council (ICC) to improve the clarity of code requirements in the 2021 International Fire Code for heat detectors in garages with energy storage systems (ESS).
AHJs and installers are interpreting some ESS standards differently. The ESS Standards Working Group is investigating ESS Standards that are resulting in different interpretations and making recommendations on how to address the issues.
- Comments on Proposals to UL 1973, Standard for Batteries for Use in Stationary, Vehicle Auxiliary Power and Light Electric Rail Applications – These comments respond to proposals to UL 1973, Standard for Batteries for Use in Stationary, Vehicle Auxiliary Power and Light Electric Rail Applications.
Other Helpful Resources
(These links lead to external content on third-party websites.)
- Winter 2019 California Solar Permitting Guidebook
- Leading the Way to Energy Efficiency presentation at Monthly SEAC General Meeting – In this March 25, 2021 presentation, Ryan Colker, Vice President of Innovation International Code Council explained changes to the code making process for the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).
- International Code Council Digital Codes – ICC Digital Codes is the largest provider of model codes, custom codes and standards used worldwide.
- List of National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) Codes & Standards – NFPA publishes more than 300 consensus codes and standards intended to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other risks. NFPA codes and standards, administered by more than 250 Technical Committees comprising approximately 8,000 volunteers, are adopted and used throughout the world.
- UL Standards encompass UL’s extensive safety research and scientific expertise. With over a century of experience in the development of more than 1,500 Standards, UL is an accredited standards developer in the US and Canada.
- In this presentation on January 28, 2021, UL’s Diana Pappas Jordan provided an update on UL Standards: “UL Standards presentation at Monthly SEAC General Meeting.”
- Fire Safety Research Institute research projects – FSRI research projects are scoped and executed to address real fire safety issues and deliver actionable insights that are put into practice to advance fire safety.
- SolarAPP+ – As cities and counties across the United States make bold commitments to curb emissions and deploy more renewable energy resources, SolarAPP+ will help accelerate this transition. SolarAPP+ is an automated permitting solution.