Municipal Solar Procurement Toolkit

Many local governments in New York have taken steps to develop municipally-owned solar projects. To assist these governments, PVTN has developed this municipal solar procurement toolkit. The first document below provides step-by-step guidance to municipalities interested in procuring solar, and is supplemented by a sample Request for Proposals and sample Power Purchase Agreement (both of which are provided in Word format to allow for modification) and an Excel-baed bid evaluation tool.
PVTN Municipal Solar Procurement Guidelines

PVTN Municipal Solar Procurement Guidelines

[Click Here] to download.

PVTN Template Request for Proposals

PVTN Template Request for Proposals

[Click Here] to download.

PVTN Template Power Purchase Agreement

PVTN Template Power Purchase Agreement

[Click Here] to download.

PVTN Municipal Solar Procurement Bid Evaluator

PVTN Municipal Solar Procurement Bid Evaluator

[Click Here] to download.

About Solar

Solar Basics

Consumer Protection Resources

Consumer Protection Resources

[Click here to access SEIA's resource page]

Central to SEIA’s work and solar success in America is the promotion of innovation and procompetitive behavior in solar markets. Yet, consistency in certain consumer transactions can create advantages to our member companies, the industry at large, and our end consumers, including:

  • improved consumer transparency
  • reduced transaction costs
  • increased potential for asset securitization

IREC Clean Energy Consumer Bill of Rights: [http://www.irecusa.org/consumer-protection/consumer-bill-of-rights/]
IREC Consumer Solar Checklist: [http://www.irecusa.org/consumer-protection/consumer-checklist/]

Solar Net Metering
Photovoltaic Systems Third Edition

Photovoltaic Systems Third Edition

Photovoltaic Systems Third Edition

By James P. Dunlop ISBN 978-1-935941-05-7

1935941054.jpgPhotovoltaic Systems by James P. Dunlop is a comprehensive textbook covering the fundamentals and principles for the planning, design and installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. The full-color 450- page hardbound text covers the key steps in project development and specific requirements for PV installations and code compliance. The content is closely tied to the job task analysis used by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) PV certification program, and is the curriculum standard for electrical apprenticeship programs, colleges and vocational institutions around the country.

Discounts Available to NY-Sun PV Trainers Network Partners and Participants In cooperation with the NY-Sun PV Trainers Network, partners and participants are offered an educational discount of 25% off the list price for purchase of the Photovoltaic Systems textbook. For further information on placing discount orders, please contact Jim Dunlop at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 321-704-1097. Additional information on the textbook and teaching resources is available at www.JimDunlopSolar.com.

NY-Sun's Solar Basics
U.S Solar Market Trends

U.S Solar Market Trends

Tracking the Sun VII: An Historical Summary of the Installed Price of Photovoltaics in the United States from 1998 to 2013

Tracking the Sun VII: An Historical Summary of the Installed Price of Photovoltaics in the United States from 1998 to 2013

Freeing the Grid 2014: Best Practices in State Net Metering Policies and Interconnection Procedures

Freeing the Grid 2014: Best Practices in State Net Metering Policies and Interconnection Procedures

New York State Renewables & Efficiency Financial Incentives, Rules, Regulations, and Policies

New York State Renewables & Efficiency Financial Incentives, Rules, Regulations, and Policies

New York Solar Programs

New York Solar Tools

PVWatts Calculator

PVWatts Calculator

NYSERDA Clean Power Estimator (Project Finance Tool)

NYSERDA Clean Power Estimator (Project Finance Tool)

New York State Solar Map

FAQs

General FAQs

Are there free resources for determining the most appropriate sites for solar?

There are several helpful tools including:

The NY Solar Map offers a substantial degree of sophistication while still retaining a user-friendly interface and simplicity.

Additional tools are a bit more technical in nature but may be able to offer more sophisticated estimates. A few are listed below:

What is Article 10 and how does it work?

Major electric generating facilities larger than 25 MW are sited according to New York State’s Article 10 law. There are no solar projects in New York State that meet that meet the 25 MW size threshold and trigger Article 10.

The Power NY Act of 2011 established a process for the siting of electric generating facilities and repowering projects. As part of the process, a multi-agency Siting Board is charged with streamlining the permitting process for power plants of 25 megawatts (MW) or greater. The Power NY Act also encourages investments in clean power plants and affords communities more opportunities to participate in the siting process.

"Article 10" was enacted in 2011 to be a portion of the New York State Public Service Law. It is a general state law that is applicable in all of New York State. Article 10 empowers the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment to issue Certificates of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need authorizing the construction and operation of major electric generating facilities.

A previous version of such a law expired on January 1, 2003. Key provisions of the new law include:

  1. Defines a major electric generating facility as facilities of 25 megawatts or more;
  2. Requires environmental and public health impact analyses, studies regarding environmental justice and public safety, and consideration of local laws;
  3. Directs applicants to provide funding for both the pre-application and application phases. It allows funding to be used to help intervenors (affected municipalities and other parties) hire experts to participate in the review of the application and for legal fees (but not for judicial challenges);
  4. Requires a utility security plan reviewed by Homeland Security and, for New York City (NYC) plants, NYC's emergency management office;
  5. Provides for appointment of ad hoc public members of the Siting Board from the municipality where the facility is proposed to be sited; and,
  6. Requires a public information coordinator within the Department of Public Service to assist and advise interested parties and members of the public in participating in the siting process.

More information on the Power NY and Article 10 is available:

What is an offtaker?

An offtaker is simply the purchaser of the power that a solar system produces. In many solar projects, there is an underlying agreement that defines who is responsible for purchasing and paying for the power that is produced by the solar system. This underlying agreement is usually a power purchase agreement (PPA). In a PPA, a solar purchaser or offtaker buys power from a project developer at a pre-determined rate for a specified term without taking ownership of the system. The project developer procures, builds, operates, and maintains the system. The solar system may be physically located on the offtaker’s premises (onsite PPA or the system can be located offsite from the offtaker (offsite PPA). In either case, a PPA is a financial mechanism that allows the offtaker to accrue many of the benefits of solar power without owning a system.

Offtaker in a shared solar project:

In the case of a shared solar project, the solar project is usually not located on the offtakers property (offsite project). The offtaker, commonly referred to as a subscriber, is a community member who purchases a share of a community shared solar project. This share is made up of the power generated by the solar PV system. So, the subscriber is actually purchasing a portion of the kwh output of the solar system. They can then use this portion of the system to offset their electricity usage from the electric grid. Ideally, a developer would have the shared solar array fully subscribed, meaning that all of the power produced by the array is being purchased by members of the community. If that is not the case, however, the liability typically falls on the developer as opposed to the landowner. Since the solar developer is the primary beneficiary of the array in terms of profits, the solar developer is typically the one responsible for ensuring subscriptions to the array and dealing with the financial consequences of an under-subscribed array.

Is glare a concern for solar PV systems?

Glare is rarely an issue since the panels face upwards at an angle of nearly 45 degrees and can be addressed through proper siting. Solar panels are designed to reflect only about 2 percent of incoming light, so issues with glare from PV panels are rare. Pre-construction modeling can ensure that the placement of solar panels prevents glare.

Useful Resources:

What are the options for reducing the visual impact of solar PV systems?

There are a number of options for reducing the visual impact of solar PV systems depending on the size of the system. The visual impact of solar installations is usually addressed through dimensional standards including height limitations, setbacks from property lines or neighboring structures, lot coverage, and screening from adjacent public rights-of-way. In many instances, existing dimensional standards in a zoning ordinance for primary and accessory use structures could apply to solar PV systems.

For security and safety reasons, many communities require that solar farms be securely fenced and that warning signs be posted. Many communities require a site plan review for a large installation as well as an agreement with a utility for interconnection of the completed facility. Some localities also require stormwater management plans and in some more rural communities or areas that abut public land, environmental analyses for potential impacts on wildlife and vegetation are sometimes required. Additionally, some communities often require owners to decommission nonfunctioning facilities, and restoration of the site to its previous condition, especially for formerly agricultural lands.

New York State’s Model Solar Energy Law has suggestions related to reducing visual impact for solar PV installations.

Useful Resources:

Is there any impact from electromagnetic fields produced by a solar PV systems?

  • The impact from electromagnetic fields produced by a solar array is negligible. According to a study conducted by the Oregon Department of Transportation:“The strength of electromagnetic fields produced by photovoltaic systems do not approach levels considered harmful to human health established by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.”

 

Table 1: Potential Magnetic Field Strength From Various Components of West Linn Solar Array

Source

Field Type

Field Strength at 3 ft. (Milligauss)

Field strength at 10 ft. (Milligauss)

Corresponding ICNIRP exposure limit for the general public (Milligauss)

Parallel string of PV modules

Static

1,697

509

4,000,000

DC to AC power inverter

Power Frequency

344

3

830

Grid interconnection

Power Frequency

14

n/a

830

 

  • Field strength at 3 ft.:
    • Modules: 99.996% below the minimum threshold of harm from EMF
    • Inverter: 59.6% below the minimum threshold of harm from EMF
    • Grid interconnection: 99.98% below the minimum threshold of harm from EMF
  • Field strength at 10 ft.:
    • Modules: 99.9999% below the minimum threshold of harm from EMF
    • Inverter: 99.997% below the minimum threshold of harm from EMF
    • Grid interconnection: 100% below the minimum threshold of harm from EMF (no detectible EMF)

 

Useful Resources

How are residential systems assessed by the Town Assessor?

The Assessor has a few options of how they can assess the value and the system and it is up to the Assessor to determine the most appropriate methodology. We’ve outlined the main approaches.

Methodologies for assessing value of solar include:

  • Comparable sales/market approach: assessor compares the market value or sale price of similar properties located within the same jurisdiction to measure the property value added due to a solar PV system.
  • Cost approach: the value of a solar PV is measured based on the systems cost or the cost to replace it.
  • Income approach: value of solar based on current and projected revenue from power generation.

Helpful Resources

Do solar installations have an impact on property values?

Residential solar

According to a recent study conducted by U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), home buyers have been willing to pay more for homes that have solar PV systems owned by the homeowner. Nonetheless, the study found no evidence that shows that home buyers are willing to pay more or less for homes with third-party owned solar PV systems.

A previous study, also by LBNL, found that there is only a small and statistically non-significant difference between PV premiums for new and existing homes.

Utility scale solar

It is important to note that New York State does not currently have what are generally considered as ‘utility scale’ solar projects nor does it have utility ownership of solar. Since there is limited research on the impact of utility scale solar projects on property values, one option is to look at the impact of large-scale wind projects on property values. The existing research examining the property values of residential homes located near or with views of wind turbines provides little or no evidence that home values are affected (positively or negatively) before or after the construction of facilities.

  • This website houses many of the studies on wind projects and property valueshttp://www.realtor.org/field-guides/field-guide-to-wind-farms-their-effect-on-property-values
  • A study conducted by Hoen et al in 2013, analyzed data from more than 50,000 home sales across 27 (mostly rural) counties in nine states including seven counties in New York that were within 10 miles of wind facilities. The study found no statistically significant evidence that home prices near wind turbines were affected in post-announcement, pre-construction or post-construction periods. The study concluded that if effects do exist, the average impacts are relatively small and/or sporadic impacting only a very small subset of homes. 
    • Hoen, B., Wiser, R., & Cappers, P. (2013). A Spatial Hedonic Analysis of the Effects of Wind Energy Facilities on Surrounding Property Values in the United States. Berkeley: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Retrieved from https://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/lbnl-6362e.pdf
  • A similar 2014 study examined 122,000 homes sales near 41 turbines located in more densely populated areas in Massachusetts within 5 miles of the wind facilities. The study concluded that there were no net effects on property values due to wind turbines and only weak evidence that the announcement of a wind facility had a modest adverse impact on home prices that were no longer apparent after turbine construction and operation commenced (Hoen & Atkinson-Palombo, 2014).
    • Hoen, B., & Atkinson-Palombo, C. (2014). Relationship between Wind Trubines and Residential Property Values in Massachusetts. Berkeley: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; University of Connecticut. Retrieved from https://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/lbnl-6371e_0.pdf

It is also important to note that solar farms do not have the same impacts as wind farms (i.e., PV facilities do not cast a shadow on neighboring properties, cause light flicker, or have the same visual impact as wind farms). Communities can opt for mitigation measures to reduce visual impacts of solar farms through the use of setbacks, vegetative screening or fencing.

Finally, there are some misconceptions related to the impacts of solar projects. Often people are concerned about glare, noise, or electro-magnetic fields and research and experience has shown that these are not issues associated with solar PV development. This resource summarizes a few reasons why these concerns are misleading: https://www.nrel.gov/tech_deployment/state_local_governments/blog/top-five-large-scale-solar-myths

Are Solar PV systems considered real property if installed on Homes, Businesses, or Commercial Solar Farms under RPTL §487 Solar Wind and Farm Waste.

Yes, solar PV systems are considered real property if installed on homes, businesses, or commercial solar farms under RPTL §487.

Does a property tax exemption increase a municipality’s county taxes through "Apportionment" or "Equalization" process?

RPTL §844 requires that counties apportion county taxes among cities and towns within the county based upon the full valuation in each city and town. For example, if a county has four towns located within its boundaries, and if the full value of all real property within those four towns is exactly the same amount (and also assuming the equalization rate in each town is the same), each town would be responsible for paying 25% of the total tax levied by the county. Real property within each town is then taxed based upon its taxable assessed value in an amount that will levy the town’s proportionate share of the county tax burden. RPTL §1314 requires that school districts engage in the same apportionment process in calculating school district taxes.

In calculating the full value of real property for apportionment purposes, counties and school districts have the option of disregarding exemptions that partially exempt the value of real property from taxation, including the RPTL §487 exemption. If a county or school district chooses to disregard the RPTL §487 exemption for apportionment purposes, that means the value of the exemption would be added back onto the tax roll. In a county or school district where some municipalities have opted out of the RPTL §487 exemption, but at least one municipality has not, this could have the effect of shifting some of the county or school district tax burden onto the municipality that allows the RPTL §487 exemption. However, as of the date of this publication we are not aware of any examples of this occurring, and even in this hypothetical scenario the added tax on properties without solar energy systems would be negligible.

Below is a list of useful resources that explain the various aspects of the real property tax exemptions applicable to solar energy systems:

§ 844. Use of county equalization rates. 1. In any county to which this title is applicable, county taxes shall be apportioned among the cities and towns within the county on the basis of the proportion of the total full valuation of taxable real property within the county which is located within each city and town. This total valuation shall be determined by dividing the taxable assessed value of taxable real property by the appropriate city or town equalization rate as certified by the commissioner pursuant to this title. For purposes of this section: (a) "taxable real property" excludes real property which, by statute, is wholly exempt from county taxation, (b) "taxable assessed value" is limited to the assessed value actually subject to county taxation except that it also includes the amount of assessed value partially exempt from county taxation pursuant to (i) sections four hundred fifty-eight, four hundred sixty and four hundred sixty-four of this chapter, and (ii) such other sections of law as the county legislature designates by resolution to be included in the total valuation.

  • NYS Department of Taxation and Finance: About Property Taxes and Assessments (video clip)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72QuLo5Q9MY

Property Tax and Solar Energy Systems: https://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/publications/orpts/legal/raq2.pdf?_ga=1.225179802.1031257166.1423842465

North Carolina Solar Center and Meister Consultants Group: Property Taxes and Solar PV Systems: Policies, Practices, and Issues: https://nccleantech.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/Property-Taxes-and-Solar-PV-Systems-2013.pdf

NYS Energy Research and Development Authority: Guidelines for Property Tax Exemptions: http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/-/media/Files/EERP/Renewables/Definitions-guidelines-real-property-tax-exemption-renewable-energy-systems.pdf

NYS Department of Taxation and Finance: Equalization rates: https://www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/learn/eqrates.htm#schooltax

NYS Department of Taxation and Finance:  Alternative Tax Apportionment - Designated Large Property: https://www.tax.ny.gov/research/property/assess/alt_tax_appt_3.htm

Does the Real Property Tax Exemption increase neighboring or adjacent property taxes?

The Real Property Tax Law – Section 487 (RPTL – §487) states that real property that contains a solar, wind, or farm waste energy system “is exempt from taxation for a period of 15 years to the extent of any increase in assessed value due to the system.” This law is structured to be automatically applicable to all taxing jurisdictions (county, city, town, village and school district) unless they choose to opt out.

A taxing jurisdiction that does not opt out of RPTL-§487: A taxing jurisdiction that keeps this exemption in place will not increase the taxable assessed value of real property due to the installation of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system. The real property tax exemption should not impact the taxes of properties located within the same taxing jurisdiction.

A taxing jurisdiction that opts out of RPTL-§487: If a taxing jurisdiction chooses to opt out of the exemption, the real property tax on the property where the solar PV system is installed may increase to reflect the value added by the system. This should only increase the taxes of the property owner where the solar PV system is installed and if it impacts the taxes of other properties in the same taxing jurisdiction at all, it should result in a slight decrease in tax.

For a detailed explanation of how real property tax exemptions apply to solar energy systems, you may refer to this brief document developed by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance: Recently Asked Questions About the Real Property Tax Law on the Topic of Solar Energy Systems.

 

Can a municipality opt out of RPTL § 487 and refuse to tax residential systems, but tax large scale solar PV systems?

No. See the below answer from NY Department of Taxation and Finance on this question:

Q: May a municipal opt out of the exemption for commercial property while leaving it in place for residential property?

A: No. If a municipality does opt out – i.e., if it adopts a local law disallowing the exemption – it must do so for all properties. It cannot allow the exemption for one type of property while disallowing it for another, because § 487(8) states that once a municipality has opted out, “no exemption under this section shall be applicable within its jurisdiction” (emphasis added). If a municipality does not opt out, however, the law may allow it to treat commercial and residential properties differently when deciding what their PILOT obligations should be.

https://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/publications/orpts/legal/raq2.pdf?_ga=1.225179802.1031257166.1423842465

The legislation does, however, allow jurisdictions to require a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT).

The purpose of a PILOT is to reduce the tax burden on the property and/or system owner, while preserving some of the forgone revenue that would have been paid in property taxes. PILOTs are usually used for large-scale (1MW+) renewable energy projects including solar PV and are annual payments related to the systems nameplate capacity ($/MW).

The PILOT may not exceed a 15-year term, and it may not exceed the value of taxes that would be paid without the exemption provided by RPTL § 487.

While there is little data on typical PILOTs for solar PV projects across New York, the NY Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA) conducted a brief evaluation of wind projects in NY and found PILOTs have amounted to annual payments of $8,000-9,000/MW based on the system’s nameplate capacity. An analysis in Massachusetts found PILOT amounts ranging from $5,000/MW to $27,000/MW.

If a municipality opts out of RPTL § 487 to generate tax revenue from these larger projects, there will likely be unintended consequences for the local residential and commercial solar market. PILOT agreements are an effective tool for jurisdictions to generate tax revenue from large projects without making solar costs prohibitive for most homeowners and business owners.

Useful Resources:

If a municipality opts out of RPTL-§487 can it still utilize a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) for a large-scale solar project?

No. If a municipality opts out of the exemption it can’t utilize a PILOT.; The PILOT option is only available to municipalities that have not opted out of the exemption. If a municipality wanted to enter into a PILOT, it would have to restore the RPTL§487 exemption. In order to do so, the jurisdiction would have to repeal the local law, ordinance or resolution to opt out. A copy of any local law, ordinance or resolution restoring the exemption should be filed with both the Department of Taxation and Finance and NYSERDA.

For more information on PILOTs please refer to this brief document developed by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance:https://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/publications/orpts/legal/raq2.pdf

If a Town does not opt out of the RPTL 487 can they require a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) for large Solar Installations and not require a PILOT for homeowners, small businesses, and farmers or are they required to have a Pilot for both.

If the town does not opt out of the RPTL 487 they can require a PILOT for large scale solar installations and not require a PILOT for homeowners, small business and farmers. They are not required to have a PILOT for all types of systems. PILOTS are usually only applies to installations in the MW range. Most jurisdictions that maintain the exemption only require a PILOT for solar installations once they get into the MW range. Any other type of installation – homeowner, small business etc are not required to have a PILOT.

Are PILOTs usually negotiated for the life of the panels (greater than 15 years) or is there a limitation set by law?

As relates to the RPTL § 487 exemption, a PILOT agreement cannot operate for a period of more than 15 years. This is expressly stated in § 487(9)(b).  The law clearly sets a 15-year limit on PILOT agreements because the exemption itself cannot last more than 15 years.  It would be impossible to justify structuring a PILOT agreement so that it would purport to remain in effect after the property to which it applies has become taxable.

Does a community have to provide individual notice that it intends to negotiate a PILOT or can it simply post that it plans to negotiate PILOTs?

Real Property Tax Law (“RPTL”) § 487(9)(a) states that if an owner or developer provides written notice to a taxing jurisdiction of its intent to construct a solar or wind energy system, then the taxing jurisdiction must notify the owner or developer of its intent to require a PILOT agreement within 60 days of receiving the written notification.  This is only pertinent where an owner or developer has given the taxing jurisdiction notice of its intent to construct.  According to the statute, the taxing jurisdiction would have to send an individualized notice directly to the owner or developer.  A general posting or publication by a taxing jurisdiction of its intent to require PILOT agreements does not satisfy the requirements of § 487(9)(a). 

That said, it should be understood that if an owner or developer has not given the taxing jurisdiction notice of intent to construct, the taxing jurisdiction is under no obligation to notify that owner or developer of its intent to require a PILOT.  Under this scenario, the taxing jurisdiction would be free to require a PILOT without prior notice. 

It is also important to note that there is nothing in the law that requires a taxing jurisdiction to “negotiate” PILOTs; it has the power to impose them unilaterally, subject only to the constraints set forth in the law.

Does a solar developer have to issue a notice to all taxing jurisdictions?  If not, does the jurisdiction that receives a notice from a solar developer need to issue a notice to the other jurisdictions?

Note that RPTL § 487(9)(a) does not obligate an owner or developer to provide written notice of its intent to construct a solar or wind energy system. The owner or developer may choose to provide written notice for the purpose of determining whether they will be required to enter into a PILOT agreement. If an owner or developer chooses to provide written notice of its intent, the law requires the owner or developer to provide such notice to each taxing jurisdiction it is seeking a determination from. In other words, if an owner/developer provides written notice to the town within which it intends to develop, but does not provide written notice to the county or school district, the owner/developer cannot claim that the county or school district was required to notify the owner/developer of its intent to require a PILOT agreement within 60 days of receiving the written notification; since written notification was not provided to the county or school district, neither would be under any such obligation.

What are the obligations of a solar PV installer after installing the system?

The obligations will depend on the individual installation and the contract signed with the individual installer. Customers should carefully review their contracts and understand the responsibilities of the installer after the system is installed. It is important s to thoroughly research and vet the installer or developer before entering into a contract.

NYSERDA has a list of approved installers by county in New York State. NYSERDA approved installers are subject to random quality assurance tests for their installations. Upon initial acceptance of installers to NYSERDA’s list, a third party quality assurance inspector evaluates about 20% of a particular firm’s installations. Depending on the scores from the initial evaluations, the third party inspector will inspect more installations if quality assurance scores are poor and less installations if quality assurance scores are strong.

Several organizations including the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council have released consumer protection resources including:

Useful Resources:

Who is responsible for repairing or removing a solar PV systems in case of catastrophic events, such as fire and storms, that leave the system inoperable?

The solar developer should be responsible for the repair or removal. This should be covered in the Force Majeure and operations and maintenance language in the land lease agreement (if between the developer and the land owner) and the power purchase agreement (PPA) between the purchasers of the electricity and the solar developer.

Useful Resources

What are the waste disposal requirements for solar PV systems?

Solar panels and other equipment associated with the installation should be properly disposed of, recycled or reused when the system is decommissioned or comes to the end of its useful life. After installation, solar panels usually have an average lifespan of 20-30 years or longer. PV cells typically lose about .5% of their energy production capacity per year. Solar installations are still relatively new in New York and therefore only a small percentage of solar panels have been replaced due to damage or have reached the end of their useful life. A significant increase in the amount of end-of-life PV modules is expected over the next few decades.

The process for disposing of the materials will depend on if the waste is classified as hazardous or solid. Solar panel manufacturers usually provide a list of materials used in manufacturing their product. This can be used to determine the proper disposal requirements at the time of decommissioning. It is usually the solar panel manufacturer’s responsibility to determine if the solar panel is hazardous or not. One option for determining proper disposal is through the Toxicity Characteristics Leaching Procedure (TCLP). Panels go through the TCLP test and if they pass they are regulated as solid waste and if they fail they are regulated as hazardous waste.  If the panels are classified as hazardous, then the disposal is governed by New York’s hazardous waste procedures (6 NYCRR Parts 370, 371, 372, 373, 374 and 376). If the panels are classified as solid waste, then the disposal is regulated by New York’s solid waste procedures (6 NYCRR Party 360).  According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, most solar panels pass the TCLP test and are therefore classified as non-hazardous, solid waste.

There is increasing interest in recycling the materials associated with solar panels (e.g. metal and glass), but there is no national or state standard that requires the industry to do so. Some US solar companies and manufacturers are taking on voluntary initiatives offering take back or end-of-life recycling programs for their products. One of the pioneering US solar companies is First Solar. There is also a California based non-profit organization, Silicon Valley Toxic Coalition, that promotes a safe solar PV sector for the environment, workers, and communities, and issues an annual scorecard that ranks solar manufacturing companies based on specific sustainability and social justice indicators. Looking abroad, PV Cycle, a European based non-profit association manages a voluntary collection and recycling program for end-of-life PV modules.

People who lease land for solar projects are encouraged to include end-of-life panel management as part of the lease. In cases where panels are purchased, owners need to determine whether the end-of life panels are a solid or hazardous waste and dispose or recycle the panels appropriately.

Useful Resources

Can solar PV arrays be installed on wetlands?

The siting of a solar PV system should be treated like any construction project.  If the solar PV system is proposed on any environmentally sensitive area, such as in or adjacent to a wetland, then state and local laws would apply including SEQR, permitting, and other informational requirements. The best approach is to contact the environmental permitting staff in the region of the proposed project in order to understand the SEQR, permitting and informational requirements: http://www.dec.ny.gov/about/39381.html

The NYS DEC provided general guidance on solar PV development and wetlands as described below.

Solar PV and Wetlands

Projects/developments, including solar PV projects, located within or adjacent to state regulated resources and subject to State discretionary decisions are subject to State (DEC) permitting and SEQR and not subject to specific exemptions. As with all proposed projects/developments, the type of permitting and application of SEQR is dependent upon what is proposed and where it is located. Regarding SEQR, any proposed project that requires a discretionary decision from a local, county or state government is subject to SEQR.

To determine required permits (from DEC) and the SEQR classification, it is advisable to submit specific projects for a jurisdictional review to DEC-Permits, which would include submitting a location map, project narrative and any preliminary plans for the proposed project.

New York State regulates wetlands that are on their regulatory map.  However, there are many acres of wetland that meet the criteria to be regulated but are not on the maps. In addition, the existing mapped wetlands are approximate and can underrepresent the actual wetland areas. There may be other regulations that would also need to be considered such as Article 11 ‘Threatened and Endangered Species’, Article 15 ‘Protection of Waters’, Article 25 ‘Tidal Wetlands’ or ‘Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers.’ Each site has a unique set of circumstances that need to be considered and it is best to get a list of regulations directly from the regional permit staff.         

 

Solar PV and Freshwater Wetlands

For Freshwater Wetlands (FWW) NYSDEC has jurisdiction over “regulated activities” with the regulated Freshwater Wetland and the 100 ft. adjacent area.  The Implementing Regulations for the FWW Law are known as 6 NYCRR Part 663: https://govt.westlaw.com/nycrr/Browse/Home/NewYork/NewYorkCodesRulesandRegulations?guid=I03a74980b5a111dda0a4e17826ebc834&originationContext=documenttoc&transitionType=Default&contextData=%28sc.Default%29

Section 663.4(d) over the regulations covers the procedural requirements for various activities in FWW and adjacent areas (AAs). The procedural requirements include the treatment of permitting (exempt, letter of permission, or required) and the level of compatibility of the activity (usually compatible, usually incompatible, and incompatible. The table below outlines the definitions.

 

Table 2: Level of procedural requirements for a specific activity and levels of Compatibility

Level of procedural requirements for a specific activity include:

Levels of Compatibility

E - Exempt; no permit or letter of permission required

C - Usually compatible means that a regulated activity may be compatible with a wetland and its functions and benefits, although in some circumstances the proposed action may be incompatible

L - Letter of permission required

N - Usually incompatible means that a regulated activity is usually incompatible with a wetland and its functions or benefits, although in some cases the proposed action may be insignificant enough to be compatible.

P - Permit required

X - Incompatible means that a regulated activity is incompatible with a wetland and its functions and benefits

Below is a list of some possible activities that may be required for certain projects and would be jurisdictional.    

Table 3: Procedural Requirements and Compatibility for various activities.

   

FWW

Adjacent Area

17.

Draining and altering water levels, except as part of an agricultural activity.

P(X)

P(X)

18.

Removing or breaching beaver dams.

P(N)

P(C)

19.

Constructing, expanding or substantially modifying drainage ditches, except as part of an agricultural activity.

P(X)

P(N)

20.

Filling, including filling for agricultural purposes.

P(X)

P(N)

21.

Installing or creating a dry well, retention basin, filter, open swale, or pond.

P(N)

P(N)

22.

Clear-cutting timber.

P(N)

P(C)

23.

Clear-cutting vegetation other than trees, except as part of an agricultural activity.

P(X)

P(N)

24.

Cutting but not elimination or destruction of vegetation, such that the functions and benefits of the wetland are not significantly adversely affected.

L

L

25.

Grading, and dredging not included in item 26.

P(X)

P(N)

28.

Constructing roads, except for winter truck roads as described in section 663.2(c) of this Part.

P(X)

P(N)

43.

Constructing commercial or industrial facilities, public buildings, or related structures or facilities.

P(X)

P(X)

Several of these activities are P(X) and therefore require a permit, but are “incompatible with the functions and benefits of the wetland” in the wetland and adjacent area.  Note that constructing a commercial or industrial facility is P(X) and this would likely cover these projects. In order to make a final decision on whether a permit can be issued for the proposed P(X) activity, it would have to go through the weighing standard and may be issued a permit if it meets the class-specific standards as outlined below.

Weighing. These weighing standards must be applied to all activities identified as P(X) in section 663.4(d) of this Part, and to all those activities listed as P(C) of (N) in section 663.4(d) or not listed in section 663.4(d) that do not meet the three tests of compatibility listed in section 663.5(e)(1). If the proposed activity is listed as (X) or cannot meet the three tests for compatibility, then a permit may be issued only if the proposed activity meets each of the standards below for the class of wetland affected:

For wetland Classes I, II, III and IV, the proposed activity must be compatible with the public health and welfare, be the only practible alternative that could accomplish the applicant's objectives and have no practicable alternative on a site that is not a freshwater wetland or adjacent area.

For wetland Classes I, II, and III, the proposed activity must minimize degradation to, or loss of, any part of the wetland or is adjacent area and must minimize any adverse impacts on the functions and benefits that the wetland provides.

For wetland Class IV, the proposed activity must make a reasonable effort to minimize degradation to, or loss of, any part of the wetland or its adjacent area.

Table 4: Classification of Wetlands

Class I wetlands

Class II wetlands

Class III wetlands

Class IV Wetlands

Class I wetlands provide the most critical of the State's wetland benefits, reduction of which is acceptable only in the most unusual circumstances. A permit shall be issued only if it is determined that the proposed activity satisfies a compelling economic or social need that clearly and substantially outweighs the loss of or detriment to the benefit(s) of the Class I wetland.

Class II wetlands provide important wetland benefits, the loss of which is acceptable only in very limited circumstances. A permit shall be issued only if it is determined that the proposed activity satisfies a pressing economic or social need that clearly outweighs the loss of or detriment to the benefit(s) of the Class II wetland.

Class III wetlands supply wetland benefits, the loss of which is acceptable only after the exercise of caution and discernment. A permit shall be issued only if it is determined that the proposed activity satisfies an economic or social need that outweighs the loss of or detriment to the benefit(s) of the Class III wetland.

Class IV wetlands provide some wildlife and open space benefits and may provide other benefits cited in the act. Therefore, wanton or uncontrolled degradation or loss of Class IV wetlands is unacceptable. A permit shall be issued for a proposed activity in a Class IV wetland only if it is determined that the activity would be the only practicable alternative which could accomplish the applicant's objectives.

       

Based on these regulations it is unlikely that permit issuance standards can be met for a large scale solar array that is proposed to be constructed in a freshwater wetland or adjacent area.  However, it may be possible to meet permit issuance standards if a relatively small portion of a project is proposed in the wetland or adjacent area.  An example would be utility lines connecting to the grid where there are no practicable alternatives and the crossing is accomplished in a way that minimizes impacts to the regulated area. 


Useful Resources

Can you provide resources on developing solar in agricultural areas?

Below are some resources that provide some helpful information.

Understanding Solar Installations in Agricultural Districts: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/-/medi a/NYSun/files/understanding-solar-installations-in-ag-fs.pdf

Agricultural Districts Website: http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/ap/agservices/agdistricts.html

Guideline for Review of Local Zoning and Planning Laws: http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/ap/agservices/guidancedocuments/305-aZoningGuidelines.pdf

Guideline for Review of Local Laws Affecting Small Wind Energy Production Facilities and Solar Devices: http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/ap/agservices/guidancedocuments/Guidelines_for_Solar_and_Small_Wind_Energy_Facilities.pdf

Landowner Considerations for Solar Land Leases: http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/FactSheet/Solar_Land_Leases.pdf

Homenick, E. Sullivan County Real Property Tax Services, "Solar Array's and Taxation": https://s3.amazonaws.com/assets.cce.cornell.edu/attachments/12866/SOLAR_ARRAY%E2%80%99S.pdf?1452808160https://s3.amazonaws.com/assets.cce.cornell.edu/attachments/12866/SOLAR_ARRAY%E2%80%99S.pdf?1452808160

If a solar PV system is installed on a farm, can the land still be farmed or grazed? Is fencing around the system required?

Best practice would be to secure the solar array by fencing around the system. However, it’s not necessarily required so long as the wiring and conduits are secured and are high enough off the ground to keep animals from causing damage.

The surrounding land could certainly be used for grazing, however, gravel is often placed between the rows of panels to keep vegetation from shading the panels. See Carlson Orchards in Mass. for an example of an un-fenced system.  

http://www.townofbolton.com/Pages/BoltonMA_BBoard/I035C5B3E

If fencing is not desirable, the solar proponent should discuss design options with the prospective solar developer.

What are the real property tax impacts of converting agriculturally exempt land to solar production for off-site sale and use?

Please see the factsheet Understanding Solar Installations in Agricultural Districts: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/-/media/NYSun/files/understanding-solar-installations-in-ag-fs.pdf included in the Solar Guidebook for Local Governments: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/SolarGuidebook.

 Other Useful Resources:

  • Agricultural Districts Website
  • Guideline for Review of Local Zoning and Planning Laws
  • Guideline for Review of Local Laws Affecting Small Wind Energy Production Facilities and Solar Devices
  • Agricultural Assessment Information
  • Agricultural Assessment Overview and Conversion Penalties

What are the potential storm water runoff implications of solar PV systems?

  • Solar PV projects may impact stormwater runoff. The panels could have an effect on the volume, velocity and discharge pattern of stormwater runoff. The impact of solar PV installations will depend on a number of factors including if grass or another pervious surface will be placed under the solar panels or if the area will be paved or otherwise rendered impervious.
  • There are US EPA and NYS DEC regulations overseeing stormwater issues. It is recommended to contact the environmental permitting staff in your region to discuss stormwater discharge and runoff issues associated with solar PV projects and to determine the required permits and applicable regulations.
  • According to NY state regulations, construction activities disturbing one or more acres of soil must be authorized under the General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activities. Permittees are required to develop a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) to prevent discharges of construction-related pollutants to surface waters. Depending on the size of the project, solar developers may be required to develop a SWPPP.

Useful Resources:

Does a solar PV project require a SEQR review?

A large scale solar array will likely require a SEQR review.  

Under New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), local land use boards are sometimes responsible for conducting an environmental analysis before they approve projects, including solar energy systems. The land use boards include, but is not limited to, those described above that review applications for variances, special use permits, site plans, and other submissions. SEQRA review also applies to a governing board while amending zoning. To assist with this review, applicants must attach to their applications a short or long Environmental Assessment Form (EAF), depending on the type of action their application involves. The local board then must make a determination of significance, declaring whether the project is likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact. If that declaration is negative, no further environmental review is required.  Where that declaration is positive, a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be prepared. The time and expense involved with a full EIS are significant.

Under state SEQRA regulations, actions are grouped as Type I, Type II, or Unlisted Actions. Type II Actions are exempt from review and include actions such as construction, expansion, or placement of minor accessory structures. For example, small-scale solar installations are generally considered to be Type II actions,[1] meaning that they have been pre-determined as having no significant adverse impact on the environment and require no review under SEQRA. Local governments may create their own Type II lists and specifically include building-integrated solar components and small-scale, roof- or ground-mounted systems on their list, exempting them from all SEQRA requirements, including the submission of an EAF. See details below. 

Type I Actions are those that meet thresholds contained in the SEQRA regulations; they are considered more likely than others to have a significant adverse environmental impact. Applicants must submit a long Environmental Assessment Form with their applications, which contains more detail about potential environmental impacts than the short form.  Large-scale solar PV projects generally fall within the parameters of a Type I[2] or unlisted SEQRA classification.  When reviewing Type I Actions, however, a complete Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is not required if the project is unlikely to have a significant adverse environmental impact. Unlisted Actions are neither exempt nor Type I Actions. The local board can avoid requiring an EIS for an Unlisted Action by issuing a conditioned negative declaration where a few conditions can be imposed that eliminate any significant adverse environmental impact. 

  • To appropriately limit the SEQRA review process for solar energy projects, local governments can take several steps:
    1. Because Type II actions are exempt from SEQRA, a community should consider adding small-scale solar energy systems to its local Type II list to ensure systems with negligible impacts do not trigger SEQRA review. State SEQR regulations present a list of Type II actions that includes the construction, expansion or placement of minor accessory/appurtenant residential structures, including garages, carports, patios, decks, swimming pools, tennis courts, satellite dishes, fences, barns, storage sheds or other buildings not changing land use or density. 6 NYCRR 617.5(c)(10). It also includes "construction or expansion of a primary or accessory/appurtenant, non-residential structure or facility involving less than 4,000 square feet of gross floor area and not involving a change in zoning or a use variance and consistent with local land use controls, but not radio communication or microwave transmission facilities." 6 NYCRR 617.5(c)(7). These regulations do not specifically mention accessory solar energy systems but can be so interpreted, since these systems impacts are similar to those of the items listed. To be certain that small-scale solar systems are exempt from SEQRA review, a community may add them specifically to the local Type II list.
    2. Where a solar energy system does not meet the regulatory thresholds for a Type I Action and is not on the Type II list, making it an Unlisted Action, an EIS can be avoided where the local board finds there is no significant adverse environmental impact or where such impacts can be mitigated through the use of a conditioned negative declaration.
    3. Municipal staff should negotiate with developers in a pre-application meeting to remove from their plan any problems that will lead to a positive declaration that the project may involve one or more significant environmental impacts, thus requiring the completion of an EIS. In Merson v. McNally, 90 N.Y2d 742 (1997), the New York Court of Appeals sanctioned informal multi-party negotiations during the local environmental review process. The court found that a proposed project involving several potentially large environmental impacts can be mitigated through project changes negotiated early in the SEQRA review process to which involved stakeholders agreed, including the proposing party.
  • Municipalities also should ensure that their application forms clarify the level of review required for each type of action. For example, the application should contain specific information that demonstrates that it is a Type II action and that no environmental review is required. Further, local governments should consider providing unsophisticated applicants with technical assistance for difficult EAF provisions. Municipalities can maintain maps and databases that help applicants answer questions about connections to public water, sewer, or transit and proximity to environmental justice communities of concern, all information required in the short EAF

Useful Resources:


  • [1] SEQR Type II Action: §617.5(c)(7) & (10)

    [2] SEQR §617.4(b)

What are the potential impacts of solar PV systems to species and their habitats?

  • New York DEC's main responsibilities are to manage and protect New York State's wild animal and plant populations. To do this, DEC conserves crucial habitats and sets regulations and policies that protect plant and animal resources.
  • New York has rules in place to ensure that state-listed rare species and animals and plants are protected. The New York Natural Heritage Program and Endangered Species Program aim to manage and protect animal and plant populations.
  • Jurisdictions and solar project proponents can check with the local DEC to determine if the footprint of the solar PV project lies within a rare species habitat.

Useful Resources

What is the status and future of building integrated PV systems?

Building-integrated PV (BIPV) is typically less efficient and more expensive than standard rooftop solar. According to NREL, the potential for price reductions for BIPV remains uncertain. NREL’s findings suggest that BIPV prices could be lower than residential PV system prices, but past market experiences suggest that realizing these cost reductions can be very challenging. BIPV is able, in many cases, to provide solar energy to a building with minimal effect on the appearance of the building. BIPV is particularly useful to mitigate issues that surround solar energy in historic districts.

Useful Resources:


National Electric Code FAQs

Where is it required to place warning signage on a building that is fed from PV to read "Warning, Power To This Service Is Also Supplied From Photovoltaic Sources" (with disconnects located as described/shown).

At least one directory is required when a building is served by a utility and a photovoltaic source. The location of the directory is recommended to be at the Electrical Service Entrance as the Directory is intended to: 1) Inform that a solar electric system serves the building, 2) the location of the dc Disconnect Switch(es), and 3) the location of the ac Disconnect Switch(es).

Is it necessary to de-rate conduit that is mounted to a wall or other surface in direct sunlight the same way as conduit mounted directly on the roof deck as per temperature de-rating? If not, why not?

In terms of temperature corrections for circuits other than rooftop conductors/cables exposed to direct sunlight, nothing exempts having to apply appropriate temperature corrections for any other circuits in other locations. While you don't have ambient temperature adders to use from 310.15(B)(2)(a), you would still need to estimate the maximum circuit temperatures and apply the appropriate temperature correction factors. If there is no adjustment for more than three conductors and your temperature correction factor is less greater than 0.8, you would use 690.8(B)(1) to determine the minimum conductor ampacity.

What requirements changed between the 2012 and 2015 IBC, and were there any large scale overhauls to the code during these cycles? (The City is making changes to their Model Inspection Checklist for Rooftop PV Systems so that it meets with the current IBC

Recent versions of the International Building Code (IBC) are adopted by all US states and territories. Chapter 16 of the IBC addresses structural requirements for PV array installations. Structural loads on PV arrays are evaluated by ASCE7-10 Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures.

The National Electrical Code (NFPA70, NEC) is referenced by the IBC Chapter 27, and addresses electrical installation requirements for PV systems. Notable changes for PV systems from the 2011 to 2014 editions of the NEC include the addition of rapid shutdown requirements for PV arrays in 690.12, and clarification of interconnection options in 705.12. Grounding requirements in 690 Part V were also clarified.

Requirements for PV array locations on rooftops, including access pathways and ventilation areas are addressed by the International Fire Code, Section 605.11. Further details of the specific code changes and impact on installations and the permitting process can be found in industry publications.

Are there any NEC codes that list requirements for conductors that will run in a trench under a yard and then cross under a stream?

NEC 300.5 addresses Underground Installations. Options include direct buried cable or conductors in raceways listed for wet locations as identified in 310.10(C). If water flow at the stream makes trenching impractical then directional boring and a suitable conduit such as HDPE could be an alternative.

Environmental considerations associated with disturbance of the stream are outside of the scope of the NEC but might require additional review by the AHJ and/or the DEC.

NEC References:  Article 300, 300.5, 310.10(C), Article 353

Is there any way to safely conduct roof operations with solar panels in place?

Yes, avoid the solar panels and any dc circuits/conductors/raceways leaving the array location, or alternatively ensure that rapid shut down provisions are in place and have been activated. Systems using ac modules, microinverters or dc-to-dc converters (e.g. Solaredge inverters and optimizers) are inherently compliant with rapid shutdown requirements. For these systems, disconnecting the ac utility source (service) to the building will de-energize the system back to the individual module level which is considered a non-hazardous condition for firefighters.

Is there a law that states all PV systems must be labeled with the safety cut off stickers?

Yes, all PV system labeling requirements are covered in the National Electrical Code, and once adopted by states and local jurisdictions effectively become law that is enforced by the AHJs.

Why would you place an inverter on the roof?

Installing inverters on rooftops withing 10 feet of arrays is one method of complying with rapid shutdown requirements in 690.12.

Does the rapid shutdown also apply to large solar fields, or just rooftop installations?

No, rapid shutdown requirements only apply to PV system circuits installed in or on buildings, see 690.12. Generally, ground-mounted PV installations with no PV system circuits terminating in buildings are not required to employ rapid shutdown provisions.

Should overcurrent protection be used on a grounded conductor?

No. Only ungrounded conductors should have overcurrent protection. Both the Positive and Negative conductors of an ungrounded DC system may be fused as they are not connected to ground.

NEC Reference: 690.9€, 690.35(B)

When are conductors required to be grouped and identified?

When the conductors use is not "obvious."

NEC Reference: 690.31(B), 690.31(B)(3),(4)

Where is the system directory required to be located?

The location of the directory is not specified. Good practice would indicate that it should be located in a place where it can be readily seen (e.g. the service disconnecting means).  Consult with the local AHJ for location.

 

Do grounding bushings need to be used on concentrador eccentric knockouts?

Metallic conduit connected to eccentric or concentric knockouts have proven not to have a suitable bond betweent the conduit and the metallic enclosure. Grounding bushings need to be used.

NEC Reference: 250.92(B)

How do I know if a solar electric system has batteries if I only have outside access?

One way is to locate the DC disconnect switch and determine if the DC characteristic label has maximum charge controller current information. This is a new requirement, however, and systems installed prior to the NEC 2014 requirement will not have this information.

NEC Reference: 690.53

Do conductors in free air get derated based upon proximity to the roof?

Normally only conductors in conduit get derated based upon proximity to a roof. However, conductors that are "tightly bundled” are also subject to derating based upon the number of conductors using the same calculation as conductors in conduit.

NEC Reference: 310.15(B)(3)(a)(5)c,  310.15(B)(3)(c)

What is PV 125?

This is a factor that takes into consideration the concentration of solar insolation by water vapor in the air. It can increase the current output by an additional 25% over the rated operating and short circuit current.

NEC Reference: 690.8

Where is the DC equipment grounding conductor and grounded conductor bond on grounded systems?

Normally the bond is made in the inverter at the ground fault current interrupter (GFI).

NEC Reference: 690.42. Please refer to attached diagram of DC bonded EGC.

DC bonded egc neutral

When does pole to pole wiring need to be used on DC disconnect switches?

It depends upon the manufacturer's specifications, but generally the switch's pole rating must be reduced by 1.56 for switches above 30A. Switches below 30A have an additional derating factor (for example, SqD 600Vdc, 30A can not exceed 11.5A).

See manufacturer's installation specification

Can wire nuts be used in an enclosure to connect conductors in a PV system?

Yes, but only if the enclosure is inside. Many external enclosures do not remain weather tight and moisture can intrude. The wirenuts need to be rated for the environment (outdoor wet location).

Is overcurrent protection required on all subarrays?

No, but the vast majority of systems require overcurrent protection. Generally when you go above two subarrays, each subarray will require overcurrent protection in order to avoid short circuit currents that exceed the module's maximum series string fuse size. If not using overcurrent protection, the conductors must be rated for the short circuit current of both subarrays.

NEC Reference: 690.9(A), Exception (a) (b)

Does every solar electric system require Rapid Shut Down?

NEC 2014 section 690.12  describes the requirements. It is required for building mounted arrays that do not automatically reduce the voltage to 30V, 240VA within ten seconds and within ten feet of the array, or for conductors more than five feet inside a building.

NEC Reference: 690.12

Does a solar electric system on a metal roof require that the roof be grounded?

Yes, they fall into the category of 260.6(A)(4) "Bonding of Electrically Conductive Materials and Other Equipment” that are likely to be energized. However, the NEC does not specify how a metal roof is to be grounded.

NEC Reference: 250.6(A)(4)

Do ground mounted arrays require a ground rod?

The NEC 2014 requires a grounding electrode (ground rod ).  Good practice for high lightning prone areas is to include a ground rod. The ground rod must be bonded to the facility grounding electrode system.  There are also lightning arrestors that would be a good addition to the design.  The 2014 NEC allows for structural steel in carports for example to act as the grounding electrode.

NEC Reference: 690.47(D)

What is an acceptable voltage drop in conductor sizing?

Direct Current (DC): There is no NEC requirement for an acceptable voltage drop in conductor sizing. Sound design and practice would typically be in the rand of 1.5% - 2%.

Alternating Current (AC): The conductor between the inverter and the utility interconnection must be sized to prevent excessive voltage drop. If there is excessive voltage drop, the inverter will attempt to raise the inverter output voltage. In this process, the upper output voltage limit of the inverter may be reached, and the inverter will shut down. The allowable voltage drop between the inverter and the utility interconnection is usually specified in the inverter installation manual, and is generally around 1.5%.

Can Grounded Conductors 6AWG or smaller be color coded using tape or some other identification means?

According to 200.6 Grounded Conductors are to have: (1) A continuous white outer finish, (2) A continuous gray outer finish, (3) three continuous white or gray stripes along conductor. However 200.6(6) a single sunlight resistant grounded shall be permitted to be identified by a distinctive marking at its terminations. This is important as black conductor coverings have proven to be longer lived that other colored outdoor rated conductors.

NEC Reference: 200.6

Can Equipment Grounding Conductors smaller than 4AWG be color coded using tape or some other identification means?

According to 250.119, Equipment Grounding Conductors (ECG) are to have green, or green with yellow stripes if less than 4AWG.

NEC Reference: 250.119, 250.119(A)

Can the grounded conductor in a direct current (DC) disconnect switch be broken at the pole?

Yes, but it must meet three (3) tests:

  1. Accessible to qualified persons only
  2. Used for maintenance purposes
  3. Rated for the voltage experienced.
NEC Reference: 690.17(D) Exception 2

Per the NEC, which locations are considered "Wet Locations", requiring conductors and equipment listed for that application?

8A. NEC 300.5B includes the interiors of any underground enclosures or raceways.  

8B. NEC 300.9 includes wet locations above grade.  Note that this could include indoor locations such as industrial wash areas.

What are the bonding and grounding requirements at the PV (AC) service disconnect for a supply side interconnected PV system?

Switch manufacturers provide specific information on the suitability of particular models for use as a service disconnects along with installation instructions. Referencing the 2014 NEC: 250.24C requires a bond between the Grounded Conductor and the Service Disconnect Enclosure.   NEC 250.24D requires a Grounding Electrode Conductor that connects the Equipment Grounding Conductors, the Service Disconnect Enclosure and the Grounded Conductor to the Grounding Electrode.

NEC Reference:: 250.24C, 2014 NEC: 250.24D

How much weight does a PV array add to a roof?

Typically about 4 lbs/SqFt, including framed glass panels, wiring and the mounting structure. This is similar to the weight of a layer of shingles.

How should I clean my panels?

Since New York State tends to have regular rainstorms, cleaning is usually not required on residential and small commercial systems unless there is a specific contaminant  nearby such as soot from a chimney.  Panels can be rinsed with a hose from above.  Do not direct water under the array.

How should I remove snow from my PV panels?

There are a few considerations to keep in mind when removing snow from PV panels: Safety is the primary concern, only qualified persons with the proper safety equipment should be servicing roof mounted equipment.

  1. Loose snow can be removed gently with a broom. Do not use a shovel; it can scratch or break the glass. Never walk on the panels. Walking can damage them.
  2. Wet or snow-covered panels are very slippery. Be aware of fall hazards and use proper fall protection gear for roof-mounted panels.
  3. Ground-mounted panels are best kept clear by keeping the area below the bottom edge of the panels shoveled out and free so that melting snow has space to slide off onto the ground.
  4. Because of the difference between the daily sunlight in winter compared to summer, the PV system may make three times as much energy on a summer day than on a winter day. Given the risks of injury or panel damage, it might not be worthwhile to remove the snow.

When do I need to add a fuse to each PV source string?

Series fusing is needed when the available short circuit current (as calculated in 690.8(A)(1)) on a module string is greater than the series fuse rating of the module.  For example if there are three strings of modules in series with a maximum short circuit of 10A for each string and a series fuse rating of 15A, then there would be 20A current available to flow through a module to a short circuit, thus fusing would be needed.  Two strings of modules in parallel generally do not need fusing.

Do I need expansion joints for Rigid (or EMT) Conduit?

Generally, metal conduit runs exposed to temperature swings less than 100 degrees F and less than 30ft in length do not need expansion joints. The NEC notes that table 352.44 can be used for metal conduit by multiplying the expansion length given in the table by 0.20 to determine the approximate expansion of the conduit for 100ft runs.

NEC Reference: 300.7(B)

Do I need expansion joints in my PVC conduit runs?

Expansion joints in PVC conduit is required to compensate for thermal expansion of the conduit.  Expansion joints should be installed where the change in length is expected to be 1/4 inch or greater in a straight run between securely mounted items such as boxes, cabinets, elbows or other conduit terminations.

NEC Reference: 352.44

What is the maximum allowed current for a line side tap?

The sum of the ratings of all overcurrent devices connected to power production sources shall not exceed the ratings of the service. 

NEC Reference: 705.12(A)

Does a metal roof need to be bonded when PV systems are installed? Is it necessary for a metal roof to be bonded even if a PV system is not installed on the roof?

Normally non-current-carrying electrically conductive materials that are likely to become energized shall be connected together and to the electrical supply source in a manner that establishes an effective ground fault current path. According to the NYS Stand Alone Residential Code (2010, E3509.1), "general bonding shall be provided where necessary to ensure electrical continuity and the capacity to conduct safely any fault current likely to be imposed." Conductive roofing or siding shall be bonded when electrical equipment is mounted on the roofing or siding.

NEC Reference: 250.4 (A)(4) & (5), 250.8 requires listed bonding methods; standard roof screws are not acceptable. Additional Information: As stated in the Answer column, the intent is to conduct safely any fault current likely to be imposed. In the case of rooftop PV that fault could occur in the event that wiring insulation fails due to events such as improper installation or rodent damage. A bare conductor coming in contact with the conductive roof would energize the roof. Without a bonding path to ground it could remain energized until a person provided that path. A similar hazard is present in the event of a failure of any electrical equipment or wiring on or near a metal roof, so like PV, the metal roof should be bonded to ground If no electrical equipment is present then the bonding is not required In many cases there is no electrical equipment present so bonding becomes part of the PV system installation process.

Targeted Resources for Municipal Officials

For Planners and Policymakers

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For Inspectors and Code Officials

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For Firefighters and First Responders

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Community-Based Solar Programs

NY-Sun Webinars
Planning and Implementing a Solarize Initiative: A Guide for State Program Managers

Planning and Implementing a Solarize Initiative: A Guide for State Program Managers

Model Rules for Shared Renewable Energy Programs
A Guide to Community Shared Solar: Utility, Private, and Nonprofit Project Development

A Guide to Community Shared Solar: Utility, Private, and Nonprofit Project Development

The Solarize Guidebook: A Community Guide to Collective Purchasing of Residential PV Systems

The Solarize Guidebook: A Community Guide to Collective Purchasing of Residential PV Systems

Solar Powering Your Community: A Guide for Local Governments

Other Useful Websites