This piece was originally published in the October 2018 issue of electroindustry.
David Clements, CEO, International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI)
We live in an exciting time in which innovations appear almost daily. Over the last decade, we’ve seen many changes with regard to renewable energy, light-emitting diode (LED) and other lighting, Power over Ethernet, battery technology, and direct current power.
Not only is it important that installation and product Standards stay current with new technology and practices, but it is also critical that the built environment is safe from fire and shock hazards. Similar to what is happening in the information technology industry, the electroindustry is experiencing rapid changes in systems and products—something new today is already outdated tomorrow. As electrical systems and products change, it is paramount that we stay ahead of that curve. What is even more important is the early adoption of Standards without deletions or amendments.
One of the ever-evolving topics in the National Electrical Code® (NEC) is photovoltaic systems (PV). Ensuring safety with solar has been a relatively new endeavor. We first began to see solar arrays producing more than five megawatts (MW) in 2007. Arrays exceeding 100 MW are in their infancy, having all been built within the last six years, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
While some may have thought of solar as just a fad, this trend toward harnessing and using sustainable energy isn’t going away. The demand for PV installations will only increase across the United States and around the world. Places like Atlanta, Denver, Hawaii, and California are setting goals for 100 percent renewable energy.
Codes are now focused on energy storage systems (ESS) that are used with PV and other renewable technologies, according to Joseph Wages Jr., IAEI technical advisor of education, codes, and Standards. Laure-Jeanne Davignon, director of workforce development for Interstate Renewable Energy Council, agrees. She sees ESS training as an emerging field. Furthermore, a January 2016 article from NFPA Journal reported on the many safety questions, including risks to first responders and the public from exposure to toxic fumes, electricity, and other hazards associated with ESS if a fire or other incident were to occur.
The key to staying on top of the technological changes we’re seeing is to ensure that the whole electroindustry is involved in creating Standards and influencing safety, not just one particular group. It takes manufacturers, installers, designers, standards developing bodies, certification agencies, and—last but not least—the enforcer community to ensure a safe built environment.