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PV electrical inspection

PV electrical inspection

How many municipal inspections does it take to install a residential solar photovoltaic (PV) system? Two is the magic number, however it can often be difficult to hit. In order for a solar customer to install an array, their system must obtain a building and electrical permit from the local building and wiring inspectors. Because solar PV technology is relatively new to inspectors and continues to evolve rapidly, the permitting process can drag on and add costs to the project.

Through Rooftop Solar Challenge II (RSC II), a U.S. Department of Energy SunShot grant, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has worked with state and municipal officials and the solar industry to streamline the permitting process for PV. RSC II, a regional effort led by the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA), targets non-hardware, or “soft,” costs for PV electricity systems, such as permitting, zoning, financing and interconnection. It is also works to increase coordination across Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Drawing on work from Rooftop Solar Challenge I and its regional partners, DOER developed guidance documents for Massachusetts inspectors. For building inspectors, the department worked with the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety, as well as the Board of Building Regulation Standards, to develop a prescriptive process for structural approval of small residential PV systems less than 10 kilowatts (kW) in size. For electrical inspectors and wiring officials, DOER coordinated with the Board of State Electrical Examiners and the Board of Fire Prevention Regulators to create a model guidance document that outlines applicable Massachusetts laws and suggests how best to streamline supplemental information for solar PV permits.

PV training sessions around Mass.

PV training sessions around Massachusetts

DOER then worked with several electrical and building associations to organize six training sessions across the state on these guidance documents and general solar PV safety. Fall sessions were conducted in Lawrence, Swansea, Springfield, Westborough and Boston and were attended by over 400 electrical inspectors, building inspectors, and solar installers. DOER worked with the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Board of State Electrical Examiners (BSEE) to ensure inspectors received continuing education credits for attending training. DOER also hosted a webinar presentation of the training in November that had over 40 participants.

The guidance documents, webinar, and additional information on the training sessions can be found online. Now, when you decide to put that solar array on your roof, you’ll feel more confident that the inspection and permitting processes won’t hold things up.

Written By:

Rooftop Solar Challenge Coordinator

Emma Krause is the Rooftop Solar Challenge (RSC) Coordinator at DOER in the Green Communities Division. RSC, a $12 million multi-state U.S. Department of Energy grant program, works to reduce soft costs around solar PV. Emma also works with the Renewables Division on the DOER solar financing program and community shared solar initiatives. She was valedictorian of her Emerson College class, where she earned her B.S. in Communications Studies, with minors in Literature and Political Science (a result of her penchant for ‘The West Wing’). Emma holds dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship and can be found on her bike or yoga mat when out-of-the-office.

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