By Amy Hudnor
Solar PV Program Coordinator
The first of its kind offered in Maine, a workshop featuring code requirements for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems was held on January 21 at Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) in Fairfield, ME. The workshop was a collaborative effort by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative, KVCC, and the International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI).
The DOE SunShot Initiative is a national effort to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of the decade. In the past six years, solar PV installations have grown exponentially thanks in part to plummeting equipment prices and stable federal tax incentives. Workshops such as this one are designed to reduce some of the ‘soft costs’ for solar installations—specifically by reducing permitting costs by creating greater familiarity with the technology and awareness of the solar code requirements among the inspector community.
The Maine workshop was part of a larger series of Sunshot Initiative workshops held throughout the United States. Chris Warfel of Entech Engineering, Block Island, Rhode Island, taught the Solar PV Workshop for Maine Code Officials and will be teaching other similar workshops throughout New England. Mr. Warfel, an expert in solar PV inspections and a well-known instructor in several renewable energy technologies, studied with IAEI in Dallas, Texas to learn to teach the New England Solar PV Workshop for Code Officials series.
Attendees of Solar PV Workshop for Maine Code Officials came from a variety of backgrounds from across Maine. Code enforcement officials, electrical utility personnel and State of Maine electrical inspectors were in attendance as well as solar PV professionals who design and install solar systems.
“Attendees asked many questions, which is important for keeping students involved,” said Warfel. “They also shared experiences from the field about the challenges and realities of installing and inspecting a once obscure renewable technology that is growing and expanding rapidly in Maine.” Attendees were able to view solar equipment and tour the KVCC Energy Services Lab, where hands-on solar training occurs on indoor mock roof-tops.
Though most attendees felt they came away from the workshop better able to inspect solar systems, some felt a six-hour workshop was not enough time to learn the intricacies of the codes involved in solar PV. The recent release of the 2014 National Electrical Code (NEC) and the changes that pertain to solar makes the topic that much more complex.
As instructor Chris Warfel put it, “The NEC, with respect to photovoltaic technology, is dynamic, and these workshops help provide a mechanism for code officials to keep up with changes.” KVCC offers a variety of professional development courses in solar and other energy technologies and is considering adding solar PV code classes as a regular part of its schedule as solar technology continues to expand in Maine.
To learn more about KVCC’s role in the Sunshot Initiative, the New England Solar PV Workshop for Code Officials series, or KVCC renewable energy professional development courses, contact: