I recently did a workshop for a major city experiencing problems with inspections on photovoltaic (PV) systems during and after installation. The problem was between the inspection and fire department. The inspection department—according to the fire code official—was inspecting the PV systems based on Article 690 of the National Electrical Code (NEC), but it was failing to require the appropriate signage and proper clearances for firefighting purposes. I was asked to locate a procedure that could aid in solving this problem. With the help of a California city, I located a procedure pertaining to the inspection of PV systems that satisfied both departments. The following procedure, “Signing and Marking: All photovoltaic systems shall be permanently marked as specified in this section,” was the one that the city reviewed for adoption.
A. Main Service Disconnecting Means
B. Direct Current (DC) Conduits, Raceways, Enclosures, Cable Assemblies, and Junction Boxes. Sections 690.31(E)(1) through (E)(4) and 690.31(F) can serve as an aid when conduits, raceways, enclosures, cable assemblies, and junction boxes are used to house DC related components. The following procedure is a recommended practice for DC supplied PV systems.
C. Secondary Power Sources. Where PV systems are interconnected to battery, generator backup systems, or other secondary power systems, additional signage acceptable to the electrical inspector and fire code official shall be required indicating the location of the secondary power source shutoff switch.
D. Installer Information. Signage acceptable to the electrical inspector and fire code official indicating the name and emergency telephone number of the installing contractor shall be required to be installed adjacent to the main disconnecting means.
E. No markings are required for inverters.
F. AC PV systems shall be marked as specified in this section.
Note that all signage and label letters shall be in a sans-serif font for a more positive identification of their meaning.
This article governs the requirements for providing the appropriate signage and marking of components making up a PV system installation and inspection. This identification procedure is necessary so that fire personnel can locate these systems easier when they are fighting fires in or on a facility. In the next installment of this three-part series, I will discuss building-mounted PV systems and the types of PV-output power circuits that must be installed properly and provide a reliable, dependable and safe PV system.
STALLCUP is the CEO of Grayboy Inc., which develops and authors publications for the electrical industry and specializes in classroom training on the National Electrical Code and other standards, including those from OSHA. Contact him at 817.581.2206.