Solar Pro Magazine Feature Nov Dec 2014

ReVisionista Cal Truman featured on the cover of Solar Pro magazine, working on an installation for Riverview Farm in Hampton, NH

Well, we dreamt about it, we sung about it, and now… it’s happened!  ReVision Energy is featured on the cover of Nov/Dec 2014 Solar Pro magazine!

The feature article, penned by company owner and resident engineer Fortunat Mueller (and North Yarmouth Fire Department Captain), is “Pitched Roof Array Layout for Fire Code Compliance,” a technical article geared towards solar installers who are still trying to digest design implications of new fire code regulations (IFC2012 and NFPA1 2012).

The short of it – new fire codes require 3′ egress pathways for firefighters to be available on south-facing roofs, making it generally impossible to accept a solar design where an entire roof is covered with solar panels.

For example:

Solar PV implications NFC2012 codes

However, the codes are not universally enforced across the country (or even within individual states) so the way that solar installers react to the new codes varies market-to-market.

The Impact of Codes on Solar Adoption

Due to the way these codes may negatively affect the viability of rooftop solar for the homeowner, many in the industry have testified against the restrictions, such as Dan Yechout, the sales director at Namasté Solar, who stated that a strict enforcement of the IFC could result in a 50% reduction in PV adoption in the city [of Boulder, CO].  Per Mueller’s article, “the fire code requirements reduced array capacity by anywhere from 15% to 37% for typical roof configurations.”

However, not all is lost, and Mueller goes on to describe three different strategies solar integrators can employ to ensure their solar array designs are code-compliant, while also financially viable and productive for the customer.  They are to: 1) “harmonize [all] your company’s internal design standards with the fire code,” 2) “design systems on a case-by-case basis to the spirit of the fire code”, and to 3) “proactively engage code enforcement and fire department officials and develop jurisdiction-specific requirements for compliance.”

ReVision’s NH-based operations manager James Hasselbeck is quoted as he describes our approach, the “middle path.”  Since the IFC2012 and NFPA1 2012 are not universally enforced across Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts, we instead choose to train our solar design specialists about the codes and also the acceptable exclusions.  Code officers can make exceptions to strict interpretations on the code based on firm design logic.  Rather than using boilerplate designs, or trying to skirt the codes, ReVision trains our staff to understand the reasoning behind fire codes, the process used by firefighters in firefighting, and the numerous ways of maintaining safety in fire standards by employing alternate and more creative solar array designs.  This is more tedious, and technical, than the standards to which many solar designers are trained, but it allows our projects to remain consistent safe and within the spirit of the code while also maximizing the productive roofspace available to our customers.

Solar is maturing and ‘soft costs’ go up as codes become more restrictive (such as NEC2014’s requirement for rapid disconnects in GTPV systems), however, this is also good news – solar PV arrays are becoming more mainstream and consistent codes and safer system designs are better for everyone.  ReVision continues to offer free training for fire departments who wish to better understand solar arrays, and we’d be happy to point code officers to appropriate resources for better understanding the codes that apply to photovoltaic installations.

Wanna read more?  Sure thing – download the PDF from our website.

And on the fun side of things…

And if music videos are more your style, here is our anthem to the trade magazine Solar Pro, which caught their attention on Twitter and became a musical sensation throughout the US solar industry:

And to prove his cred… Fortunat Mueller not only battles fossil fuels, he also battles blazes as Fire Captain at the North Yarmouth Fire Department:

Fortunat Mueller battling fire