IREC and our partners are committed to providing you with up-to-date, reliable, and vetted information that meets your needs. From 2022 to March 2024, our Question of the Week initiative provided weekly answers to clean energy questions from leading industry organizations under a U.S. Department of Energy “EMPOWERED” grant. While we are no longer adding additional questions and answers to this page, this library of questions contains a wealth of information for your reference. The answer to each question contains links to additional resources you can explore to learn more!

Browse Questions by Category

Solar PV

Performing a plan review for solar PV systems is crucial to ensuring safety, compliance, efficiency, and quality of the installation. It is important to consistently review plans to ensure that solar systems are installed properly and meet all necessary building codes and regulations.

Consider an example from Bakersfield, California where in one year when they received over 4,000 permit applications for residential PV systems, 13% of those applications did not meet the minimum code requirements for compliance issues for either structural or electrical requirements. 

Code officials are engaged in the building process from the initial plan to the finished product, and your work impacts every building in every community. Because of your commitment to building safety, our buildings stand, our communities prosper, and our homes are safe. Your thorough review of each PV system plan application matters.

Learn More:

In this Introduction course on Plan Review and Permitting for Residential PV Systems, get to know the primary tasks to confirm the code compliance of most residential roof-mounted PV systems prior to issuing a permit. 

Category: Solar PV
Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 0
Thumbs Down Icon 0

The approval of solar inspections is determined by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) and/or the utility overseeing the project installation. The inspection ensures code compliance for safety of the solar PV system, aiming to verify compliance with the permitted plan set and manufacturers instructions, ensuring that the system adheres to the codes, prevents fire hazards, and should allow for efficient operation.

The inspection process encompasses two main categories: the electrical system and the structure. For the electrical system, inspectors look at the main service panel, checking for fire safety issues, proper grounding, wire types, connections to the systems, conduit sizing and supports, and compliance with approved plans and specifications. They also assess the location of disconnect switches. In the structural inspection, the focus is on the installation’s ability to withstand elemental forces, ensuring it does not pose risks to the home or occupants. Depending on your location, these factors may include wind, snow and/or seismic items, along with the weight of the PV panels and energy storage system (ESS) on the structure. The inspector reviews panel attachment, rail installation, and structural reinforcements, comparing them to approved plans.

Conducting thorough solar PV field inspections is essential for ensuring the optimal performance, safety, and durability of solar energy systems. With the rapid growth of the solar industry and many different system types and configurations it is more important than ever for building inspection personnel to understand these systems in order to ensure proper and effective field inspections.

Here is a link where you can learn more. In this free CEU bearing course series, join experienced inspectors from across the country as they show us how to make PV inspections efficient and effective. the Solar PV Field Inspection Basics Series covers system types and locations such as:

  • Microinverter systems in Massachusetts
  • DC-DC converter systems in Illinois
  • Rooftop system with energy storage in California
  • Ground mounted AC-coupled systems with energy storage in North Carolina
  • A 300 kW Commercial carport system in California 
Category: Solar PV
Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 0
Thumbs Down Icon 0

Code officials play a critical role in ensuring that solar PV systems are installed correctly and safely. If PV systems are new to you, or you’re getting ready to inspect your first system, you’ll want to understand how rooftop PV works and your role in ensuring that safety regulations and requirements have been followed during the design and installation process. 

Learn More:

Take the next step with this resource, Preparing to Inspect Your First PV System, and learn the components of a typical system, relevant codes and standards, and permitting and inspection guides,and more.

Category: Solar PV
Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 0
Thumbs Down Icon 0

Have you heard of rapid shutdown? Rapid shutdown is a crucial safety feature in solar electric systems, and it’s particularly significant for code officials like yourself who oversee construction and code compliance. It involves the rapid de-energization of solar arrays in emergency scenarios, ensuring the safety of first responders and maintenance personnel. Understanding and enforcing rapid shutdown requirements in accordance with the National Electric Code® (NEC®) is essential to ensure that solar installations in your jurisdiction meet safety standards and mitigate electrical hazards effectively.

Learn More:

In this 30-minute course, Plan Review and Permitting for Residential PV Systems, you will learn what the National Electric Code requires for achieving rapid shutdown in solar electric systems and practice reviewing a plan to ensure compliance. 

Category: Solar PV
Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 0
Thumbs Down Icon 0

Code official and plans examiner review and approval of a solar PV system plan impacts the safety of the final installation. As a result, an accurate and comprehensive review is critical before issuing a permit. When it comes to the structural elements of a solar PV plan, you will want to focus on fire safety, structural attachments, and weather sealing.

Learn More:

In our free course on CleanEnergyTraining.org, Structural Elements: Plan Review & Permitting of Residential Rooftop Solar PV Systems, you will learn a three-phased approach to analyzing the compliance of structural attachments: 1) a prescriptive process that works for many systems when criteria for the area have been determined; 2) using a rafter span table for systems that don’t meet the determined criteria; and 3) understanding when an engineered drawing of the system should be required. You will also gain an understanding of how to distinguish between access pathways and setbacks to ensure safe and unobstructed access to solar panels for firefighters. Finally, you will learn to look for weather sealing details in the plan and base on what is acceptable for your jurisdiction according to the area climate conditions. 

This course serves as an introduction to a series that covers the permitting process for a residential solar PV system. Start today and gain the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively and efficiently inspect these types of systems in your jurisdiction.

Category: Solar PV
Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 0
Thumbs Down Icon 0

Across the country, residential solar PV systems are being installed at a rapid pace. It is important for plan reviewers and inspectors to understand the design and installation of these systems to ensure safe and quality installations. There are three main areas of plan review and permitting: fire safety, structural, and electrical. 

When it comes to the electrical elements, one area of focus should be on how to verify that the grounding and bonding of the solar array and mounting system are in compliance with UL standards and National Electric Codes. It is important to understand how to:

  • Verify the solar module-rack fire classification
  • Verify the solar module-rack grounding and bonding
  • Verify AC and DC conductor sizing
  • Verify marking and labeling
  • …and more

Learn More

IREC has established a series of free CEU-bearing courses for building and safety officials focused on the plan review and permitting of solar PV systems. In this 3-hour course, Electrical Elements: Plan Review & Permitting of Residential Rooftop Solar PV Systems, you will practice how to perform tasks that will ensure a permit package has been thoroughly evaluated.

Category: Solar PV
Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 1
Thumbs Down Icon 0

To inspect any system with batteries, at a minimum you should have voltage-rated gloves and safety glasses. Battery chemistry can range from flooded lead acid to lithium ion. The common factor is that a battery bank can store a lot of energy, and can discharge that current instantaneously. Have the right PPE for the job. And be sure to have a copy of the plan with you for all inspections. As more and more solar-plus-storage systems make their way into your jurisdiction, you will want to ensure a proper plan review before showing up on site for an inspection. This will help you ensure the system is designed to code, understand all the components configured in the system, and help you prepare what to bring on site for a safe and successful inspection.

Learn More

In this resource, take a tour of an inspection in Liberty, North Carolina of a ground mounted AC-coupled PV system with energy storage. The tour is led by IREC’s Joe Sarubbi and Rebekah Hren, Solar PV and Energy Storage Systems Subject Matter Expert and NEC Code Making Panel 4 Member.

Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 0
Thumbs Down Icon 0

Today, installing a solar electric system on the rooftop of a residential or commercial building makes good financial sense, helping you save energy, lower your electric bills, and reduce pollution. As you explore installing solar panels on your building, you will find you have many factors to consider, including your overall building energy use; determining if you have a suitable site to install solar; and understanding contracts and financial terms.

Learn More

This easy-to-read checklist puts important information in your hands that you need to know before entering into a contract to install a solar PV system.

Category: Solar PV
Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 0
Thumbs Down Icon 0

Firefighters need to be aware of the potential hazards associated with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in order to safely perform their duties. Solar PV systems can present a number of safety risks to firefighters, including:

  • Electrical shock: There is the risk of electric shock if cables are cut or become damaged by fire. This includes cables from battery banks where these are used to store generated electricity.  
  • Fire risk: Solar PV systems pose fire risks just as any other electrical equipment does. Solar panels themselves have been proven to pose an extremely low fire hazard. However, Solar PV systems use electrical wiring and components, which can create a fire risk if they are damaged or malfunction.
  • Structural hazards: Should the roof of the building be affected by fire, then the additional mechanical loading due to the weight of PV panels, or additional wind-loading caused by the panels, may cause early collapse of the roof.
  • Photovoltaic shrapnel: Solar panels can shatter when exposed to extreme heat, creating shards of glass and other debris that can pose a risk to firefighters.

Learn More

For these reasons, it is important that firefighters are trained in how to safely approach and work around solar PV systems in order to minimize these risks. Boost your confidence when operating around solar PV systems by learning from an experienced fire chief. In this mini course, Solar PV Safety for Firefighters, there are 14 brief videos that describe the various solar PV components and provide case studies from which to learn. Watch how departments respond to incidents on solar-equipped structures, both residential and commercial.

Category: Solar PV
Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 0
Thumbs Down Icon 0

SolarAPP+ is designed to provide a code-compliance check for a number of residential solar systems with energy storage. Before starting a new project in SolarAPP+, confirm that the system complies with the Eligibility Checklist. When entering project information, have ready:

  • The design with exact model numbers of equipment that will be used
  • Specification or certification sheets
  • The payment method

Learn More

The SolarAPP+ tool is designed for quicker and more efficient issuance of permits. Join the growing number of jurisdictions across the country who have issued over 11,000 permits using the SolarApp+ platform. Visit the SolarAPP+ knowledge center to find all your SolarAPP+ answers and resources.

Category: Solar PV
Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 0
Thumbs Down Icon 0

Standard permitting and inspection processes for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and energy storage systems (ESS) can vary greatly across local jurisdictions, increasing costs and extending project timelines for building officials, contractors, and system owners. For many residential projects, including rooftop PV systems up to 15 kilowatts (kW) and in some cases for ESS up to 80 kilowatt-hours (kWh), a simplified process can ensure that projects are safe, effective, and in compliance with universally adopted construction codes.

To streamline permitting, building officials can download a six-step checklist covering the information required for permitting review, electrical requirements, structural requirements, and more. For field inspections, building officials can download checklists that address notable installation requirements for PV systems and ESS. The inspection checklists can be customized with state and local requirements. Bill Brooks, an industry expert and principal engineer at Brooks Engineering, drafted each set of checklists with support from the Sustainable Energy Action Committee, SolSmart, and IREC.

Learn More:

Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 0
Thumbs Down Icon 0

SolarAPP+ is a web-based platform that streamlines the permitting process for solar energy projects. Solar permitting applications can be time consuming and resource intensive for local governments to review and approve. The high volume of these applications can lead to backlogs and delays in solar deployment. SolarAPP+ is a tool that helps accelerate solar deployment by allowing developers to check code compliance before submitting their designs for permit approval. This can help to reduce the workload for local governments and improve efficiency. The platform was developed and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 2019, and is now in use in multiple states and jurisdictions. 

Learn More

In this mini course, you will learn how to use the inspection checklist from the SolarAPP+ tool to efficiently and effectively inspect a rooftop residential PV system with an energy storage system (ESS).

Category: Solar PV
Tag: Solar
Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 0
Thumbs Down Icon 0

Solar energy systems can sometimes face more complicated and costly permitting processes in areas where permit reviewers are less familiar with the technology. A simplified process can help streamline the permitting of most residential rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems, including those with energy storage. This simplified process can help reduce informational barriers and ensure that all items in the inspection process have been adequately addressed before inspectors arrive on site.

Learn More

If you are a plan reviewer, inspector, or installer, these permitting and inspection guides from the New Buildings Institute provide an overview of code requirements for the installation of energy storage systems (stand-alone and paired with simple photovoltaic systems) in single-family, multifamily, and office buildings.

Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 0
Thumbs Down Icon 0

Energy storage systems (ESS) are becoming more common across the country. When inspecting a PV + ESS, there can be a lot of system components to review, from the modules, to inverters and disconnects, to the ESS itself. To ensure a safe and correct inspection, it is valuable to understand the system components you will encounter and how to refer to approved plans and installation manuals.

Learn More

In this instructional video, you will learn from Chief Electrical Inspector Pete Jackson about the ins and outs of a solar PV system with a string inverter and a Tesla PowerWall in Bakersfield, California. This video course will help you educate yourself about the components of the system and related codes and standards, as well as permitting and inspection guides.

Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 2
Thumbs Down Icon 0

Today, many jurisdictions have the option of saving time with automated validation for solar PV systems. Automated permitting streamlines the permitting process and ensures consistency during the validation of solar PV system designs. In 2021, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) worked with IREC and other partners to develop SolarAPP+, short for Solar Automated Permit Processing. This is an online automated design validation tool that can evaluate many new residential rooftop solar PV systems.

Learn More

Category: Solar PV
Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 2
Thumbs Down Icon 0

To responsibly issue a permit for a safe residential solar PV system, the most important aspect to consider is the accurate validation of the system design. This validation need not take a lot of time, but the process should be consistently performed. The traditional approach to issuing a permit is manual system design validation. PV and energy storage systems must comply with jurisdictional building, electrical, and fire codes. One plans examiner may review and validate all aspects of the plan, or the plan may go to more than one department for review and approval.

Learn More

Category: Solar PV
Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 3
Thumbs Down Icon 0

To verify a permit plan application for a residential rooftop solar PV system, the submitted plan must include at a minimum:

  • A site plan showing the location of the array along with the relative location of major components.
  • A 1-line electrical diagram that shows PV array configuration, conductors and conduit, overcurrent protection, inverter(s), disconnects, point of utility interconnection.
  • Specification sheets showing equipment listing and details for the modules, inverter, racking system, and other components as needed.
  • Installation manuals for system equipment and components as needed.

Learn More

This downloadable job-aid provides a basic checklist of items that should be considered when reviewing a permit plan application for a solar PV system.

Category: Solar PV
Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 2
Thumbs Down Icon 0
Energy Storage Systems

To inspect any system with batteries, at a minimum you should have voltage-rated gloves and safety glasses. Battery chemistry can range from flooded lead acid to lithium ion. The common factor is that a battery bank can store a lot of energy, and can discharge that current instantaneously. Have the right PPE for the job. And be sure to have a copy of the plan with you for all inspections. As more and more solar-plus-storage systems make their way into your jurisdiction, you will want to ensure a proper plan review before showing up on site for an inspection. This will help you ensure the system is designed to code, understand all the components configured in the system, and help you prepare what to bring on site for a safe and successful inspection.

Learn More

In this resource, take a tour of an inspection in Liberty, North Carolina of a ground mounted AC-coupled PV system with energy storage. The tour is led by IREC’s Joe Sarubbi and Rebekah Hren, Solar PV and Energy Storage Systems Subject Matter Expert and NEC Code Making Panel 4 Member.

Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 0
Thumbs Down Icon 0

Standard permitting and inspection processes for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and energy storage systems (ESS) can vary greatly across local jurisdictions, increasing costs and extending project timelines for building officials, contractors, and system owners. For many residential projects, including rooftop PV systems up to 15 kilowatts (kW) and in some cases for ESS up to 80 kilowatt-hours (kWh), a simplified process can ensure that projects are safe, effective, and in compliance with universally adopted construction codes.

To streamline permitting, building officials can download a six-step checklist covering the information required for permitting review, electrical requirements, structural requirements, and more. For field inspections, building officials can download checklists that address notable installation requirements for PV systems and ESS. The inspection checklists can be customized with state and local requirements. Bill Brooks, an industry expert and principal engineer at Brooks Engineering, drafted each set of checklists with support from the Sustainable Energy Action Committee, SolSmart, and IREC.

Learn More:

Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 0
Thumbs Down Icon 0

Solar energy systems can sometimes face more complicated and costly permitting processes in areas where permit reviewers are less familiar with the technology. A simplified process can help streamline the permitting of most residential rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems, including those with energy storage. This simplified process can help reduce informational barriers and ensure that all items in the inspection process have been adequately addressed before inspectors arrive on site.

Learn More

If you are a plan reviewer, inspector, or installer, these permitting and inspection guides from the New Buildings Institute provide an overview of code requirements for the installation of energy storage systems (stand-alone and paired with simple photovoltaic systems) in single-family, multifamily, and office buildings.

Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 0
Thumbs Down Icon 0

Energy storage systems (ESS) are becoming more common across the country. When inspecting a PV + ESS, there can be a lot of system components to review, from the modules, to inverters and disconnects, to the ESS itself. To ensure a safe and correct inspection, it is valuable to understand the system components you will encounter and how to refer to approved plans and installation manuals.

Learn More

In this instructional video, you will learn from Chief Electrical Inspector Pete Jackson about the ins and outs of a solar PV system with a string inverter and a Tesla PowerWall in Bakersfield, California. This video course will help you educate yourself about the components of the system and related codes and standards, as well as permitting and inspection guides.

Did you find this FAQ helpful?
Thumbs Up Icon 2
Thumbs Down Icon 0

Looking for further information about high performance buildings, energy storage, solar, and more? Visit the Clean Energy Clearinghouse for an expanded list of expert resources and CEUs:

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) in partnership with the International Code Council, International Association of Electrical Inspectors, National Association of State Fire Marshals, Slipstream, FSEC Energy Research Center, Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory assembled these resources to provide you with up to date, reliable, vetted information and training related to existing and emerging technologies.