Study Aims for National Solar PV Standards

The Electrical Contracting Foundation (ECF) voted to fund a study of the emerging photovoltaic (PV) market on July 15, 2004 at its mid-year meeting in Chicago. The research project, now underway, is being led by Professor Thomas E. Glavinich, D.E., P.E., of the University of Kansas. It will estimate the size of the U.S. PV market, recommend strategies for electrical contractors to enter this business, and define best practices for installing PV systems.

Bethesda, Maryland – September 21, 2004 [] The ECF acknowledged that solar energy systems have used for years — primarily to supply small loads in locations where it’s infeasible to connect them to the utility grid: remote weather stations, highway emergency telephones, etc — but that they are now making considerable inroads with grid-connected homes and businesses throughout the United States. “Higher photovoltaic system efficacy and rising fossil fuel prices are making the cost of PV-generated energy competitive with traditional power sources,” Glavinich said. “Environmental issues, the movement toward ‘green architecture,’ and concerns about energy security are also giving PV a boost. Federal and state governments, along with utilities, are offering building owners financial incentives to reduce their demand and energy use.” The ECF added that a new generation of photosensitive roofing and glazing materials promises to transform and expand the use of PV by, in effect, turning whole buildings into electrical generators. This will not only reduce peak demand on electric utility grids, but feed power back into those grids under certain circumstances. “People have been talking about applying photovoltaics in residential and commercial buildings for years, but the technology wasn’t considered economically viable,” Glavinich said. “Today’s advances in photovoltaic technology and manufacturing techniques, as well as integrating PV into building materials, are reducing the initial installed cost.” According to the ECF, the increasing use of photovoltaic roofing and window materials is sparking turf wars among various building trades. Therefore, a stated goal of the ECF is to help resolve the ‘who installs’ issue by defining installation procedures for PV systems. The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) plans to draw on the results of the ECF research to develop a National Electrical Installation Standard (NEIS) for PV systems. NEIS are a highly regarded family of ANSI-approved construction standards. The contractors’ group is a founding member of the Electrical Contracting Foundation. “The questions surrounding responsibility for installing photovoltaic systems are serious, and they’re real,” said Brooke Stauffer, executive director for standards and safety at NECA. “But since these systems generate electricity, our members are definitely going to be involved. We think publishing an National Electrical Installation Standard to define industry best practices will be an important step in sorting out these issues.”
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