Once a niche technology primarily used by early adopters, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have exploded in popularity as prices for these technologies have fallen 82% over the last decade. Today, solar PV is one of the fastest growing and most affordable sources of energy in the United States and a key part of many states’ ambitious clean energy plans. 

However, to facilitate smooth deployment of solar projects, there is a need to ensure clarity of codes and standards that apply to solar, and to ensure that all key stakeholders understand what is required in the codes. 

This site compiles numerous resources to assist diverse stakeholders in working more effectively with solar PV systems and to address codes and standards issues that present barriers to their deployment. Read on for an overview of the solar PV resources available. 

Simplified Permit Guidelines for Residential Solar and Storage

SEAC has approved the latest edition of the National Simplified Residential PV and Energy Storage Permit Guidelines, revised in September 2021. These state-of-the-art guidelines are intended to help local governments develop an efficient and streamlined permit process for typical solar PV and storage projects. They will allow communities to reduce unnecessary delays and cost while ensuring compliance with nationally recognized safety standards.

The guidelines were published by SolSmart, a national program led by IREC that helps local governments make it faster, easier, and more affordable to solar. SolSmart provides no-cost technical assistance to help municipalities and counties address permitting, planning and zoning, and other challenges that affect solar energy development.

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: 

Safety for Firefighters and/or First Responders

  • Training: Solar PV Safety for Firefighters – In this training program developed by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, learn the basics of how to operate safely when responding to an emergency at a solar-equipped site.
  • UL3741 PV Hazard Control: Standard Update – In this presentation by Tim Zgonena, Principal Engineer of UL LLC Monthly at the SEAC General Meeting on April 22, 2021, Zgonena discusses new UL efforts to ensure safety for firefighters responding to fires at buildings with solar PV systems.