Author(s): Michael Johnston Published on May 1, 2010

Energy Conscious
An overview of the proposed 2011 edition of the NEC, where a number of new provisions address renewable-energy technology including photovoltaic cells and wind turbines

NFPA Journal®, May/June 2010 

By Michael Johnston

There’s a lot of interest at the moment around the expansion of renewable energy sources, and it’s easy to see why. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable-generated electricity, including sources such as wind and solar, will account for almost 16 percent of total U.S. electricity generation in 2030, up from about 9 percent in 2007. That growth, the EIA says, will be driven mainly by the extension of federal tax credits and the new loan guarantee program in the February 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Meanwhile, EIA projects renewable energy’s share of total worldwide electricity generation will increase slightly between now and 2030, and will be the second largest source of energy for electricity production after coal.

 

NFPA JOURNAL WEBEXTRA
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Mark Earley, chief electrical engineer at NFPA, will present the next NFPA Journal WebExtra on May 20. Earley will discuss new provisions of the NEC that address safety issues related to renewable-energy technology, as well as to plug-in electric vehicles.
 Register for the presentation 

 Learn more about our Webextras


OTHER NEC REVISIONS

Beyond Renewable Energy
An overview of some of the other significant proposed changes to the 2011 NEC

• The fine print notes are now identified as informational notes.

• Defined terms have been revised and new definitions have been added.


• Available fault current values must now be marked on electrical service equipment.


• The rules for ground-fault circuit interrupters have been expanded to protect people.


• The rules for arc-fault circuit interrupter protection have been revised and expanded to reduce the possibilities of arcing events starting fires.

• Revisions to rules and terms related to electrical services on buildings or structures have clarified how the rules apply.


• New grounding rules are included for electrical substations.


• The rules applying to electrical conductors in Article 310 have been reorganized and arranged in more logical sequence and revised.


• A new Article 399 has been added in Chapter 3 and covers requirements for overhead conductors above 600 volts.


• A new article has been added to Chapter 8 and provides rules for premises-powered broadband communications systems.


AUDIO
Michael Johnston, executive director of standards and safety for the National Electrical Contractors Association:
Play audio Why is renewable energy so important?
 How did the NEC treat renewable energy in the past?
 How is the term "qualified person" changing in the 2011 NEC?
 What is the "smart grid" and why is it important?

 The future of the NEC?
 More audio clips



SIDEBARS
Related Conference Sessions
The new NEC has a green cast to it, and it isn’t alone. Here’s the lineup for the new green conference track at the upcoming NFPA Conference and Expo.

Earth First
The new NEC has a green cast to it, and it isn’t alone. Here’s the lineup for the new green conference track at the upcoming NFPA Conference and Expo.

Who’s Qualified?
NEC’s tighter definition of “qualifed person” would impact users of NFPA 70E.

To keep pace, a number of important proposed revisions, as well as new information, related to solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, fuel cell systems, and wind electrical systems have been incorporated into the 2011 edition of NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code®. In some cases, as with PV and fuel cells, the changes build on important provisions that have been part of the NEC for years. In other cases, the provisions are new; the 2011 edition of the NEC will be the first to address wind electrical power systems. In all cases, the changes to the new NEC reflect the evolving safety requirements of consumers, technicians, and emergency responders.

Here comes the sun
Article 690 of the NEC provides the rules for PV systems and has existed in the document since the 1987 edition. For the 2011 edition of the NEC, Article 690 has been revised to address evolving safety concerns related to PV system installations.

One significant revision deals with routing PV source and output conductors. A new Section 690.4(E) requires that these circuits be routed along a building’s structural members, such as beams, rafters, trusses, and columns, where the location of the structural members is easily determined by observation. Where the circuits are embedded or concealed in building finishes such as laminate and membrane roofing, they must be clearly marked that they contain PV wiring. The reason for the change is related to electrical safety concerns expressed by firefighters and emergency responders. PV systems will continue to produce power even though the service disconnect is opened. This new marking requirement will increase safety not only for service personnel, but for these emergency responders as well.

Another key revision is a new rule in 690.4(G) requiring that PV systems with multiple inverters remote from one another have a directory in accordance with 705.10 at each PV system dc disconnecting means. These directories would identify the locations of all ac and dc PV system disconnecting means in the building. This disconnecting means identification is an improvement in safety for those working on PV systems. Similarly, a new Section 690.11 will require listed dc arc-fault circuit interrupter protection for PV system source or output circuits that penetrate a building and operate at 80 volts or greater. This new technology will automatically disconnect a source circuit if an arcing fault is detected.

An important new change in Section 690.4(E) addresses qualifications of those installing equipment and wiring for photovoltaic systems. This revision now clearly indicates that all equipment and wiring related to solar photovoltaic technology be installed only by qualified persons.

Substantiation provided in the proposal and comment stages indicated that the increased efforts and incentives to install these systems have drawn many people into the PV business. The concerns are that contractors and installers engaged in this work have the necessary training and qualifications in the electrical field. PV systems produce electrical power and are often interconnected to the utility service on a building or to other structures served by that power. This is not a job for a handyman, and these systems are far more than plug-and-play. This revision is consistent with similar new requirements accepted in other areas of the NEC that address renewable electrical energy sources. The new national requirement parallels similar laws being passed at the state and local levels.  
   
Changes for fuel cell systems
Article 692, which covers fuel cell systems, was incorporated into the NEC in the 2002 edition. According to the NEC, a fuel cell system is a complete aggregate of equipment used to convert chemical fuel—such as natural gas—into usable electricity. A fuel cell system typically consists of a reformer, stack, power inverter, and auxiliary equipment.

There are two significant revisions to the NEC’s rules for fuel cell systems. A new Section 692.4(C) requires that fuel systems, and all associated interconnections and wiring, be installed only by qualified persons. As with PV, fuel cell technology requires far more than a handyman’s level of knowledge or training. Elsewhere, Sections 692.61, 692.64, and 692.65 address output circuit characteristics, unbalanced interconnections, and utility-interactive point of connections, respectively. These three sections have been revised to delete the contained requirements and refer to Sections 705.14 (Output Characteristics), 705.100 (Unbalanced Connections), and 705.12 (Point of Connection). The significance of this change is to remove the duplication of requirements and alert users to the specific applicable requirements in Article 705 for fuel cell systems that are interconnected to the utility grid. (Article 705, covering interconnected electrical power production sources, was introduced in the 1990 edition of the NEC and is directly related to grid-connected renewable energy sources.) The concern about interconnected fuel cell systems is related to use of proper transfer and paralleling equipment in a fashion that does not result in inappropriate connection to the grid and possibly back-feed on the utility system, two definite safety concerns for persons and property.

A new provision for wind 
A new article covering small wind electrical systems has been incorporated into the 2011 NEC. Article 694 provides new rules for wind electrical systems rated up to 100 KW.  Wind electrical systems include components such as generators, alternators, inverters, and controllers. Small wind electric systems can be interactive with other electrical power production sources or might be stand-alone systems. They can also have ac or dc output, with or without electrical energy storage such as batteries.

Article 694 includes nine parts—General; Circuit Requirements; Disconnecting Means; Permitted Methods; Grounding; Marking; Connections to Other Sources; Storage Batteries; and Systems Over 600 Volts—and the new rules are similar to those contained in other articles covering renewable energy systems such as PV and fuel cells. This new article includes specific rules related to circuits, disconnects, permitted wiring methods, and guy wire supports. Grounding requirements are provided for systems and non-current-carrying metal parts of equipment. Although the rules for generators, wiring methods, grounding and bonding, conductors, overcurrent protection, and other methods and equipment can be applied to all wind systems large or small, Article 694 provides specific rules on these topics.

During the comment stages of the NEC development process, the qualified-persons requirement was incorporated into this article. Section 694.7 requires all systems covered within the article be installed only by qualified persons. This includes all equipment and associated wiring. Wind systems are not new to the electrical field, but new installation requirements and product safety standards have been aggressively developed for such equipment and systems.

Electric vehicles and energy storage
As the country forges toward energy independence, focus is strengthened on various renewable energy sources that can interconnect with the utility power grid. Photovoltaic, fuel cells, and wind power generating systems fall into this category. The government is accelerating the development and evolution of the electrical power grid in this country. One NEC article that may be affected by the smart grid activity is Article 625 covering requirements for electric vehicles and charging systems. There are significant challenges on the horizon with the pressure to reduce power consumption and at the same time increase the use of electrical vehicles. A change in Article 625 introduces a new defined term, “Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle.” This is a vehicle intended for on-road use with the ability to store and use off-vehicle electrical energy in the rechargeable energy storage system. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles also have a second source of motive power.  The charging sequences and this additional load will have to be effectively coordinated so that the effort to reduce the stress on the utility grid is not neutralized. This is where renewable energy sources and specifically energy storage will play an important role.  The work to improve power use and develop a more intelligent method to manage the current electrical infrastructure will require educating the consumers, contractors, and all affected.

Looking ahead
Enhancements to current rules in the NEC, along with newly incorporated rules, result in safer electrical systems. As electrical system technologies expand, however, so too do electrical safety concerns. The NEC technical committees will continue to be challenged in each cycle, specifically in areas related to renewable energy sources.

Areas where the NEC will likely see significant changes in future editions are electric vehicle charging systems, battery storage systems, and fuel cells. The ability to store electrical energy is going to become more popular. Plug-in vehicles can be charged and discharged, meaning they could possibly be used as backup power systems for premises wiring—and this will no doubt result in the need for more NEC requirements. While the electrical industry embraces collective efforts to bring renewable energy systems online, safety for persons and property must never be compromised. That’s why understanding the changes in the NEC is essential not just for the people who work on these systems, but for the engineers, designers, safety professionals, and anyone else whose work is potentially affected by a facility’s electrical requirements.


Michael Johnston is executive director of standards and safety for the National Electrical Contractors Association and a member of the NFPA Electrical Section.

 

SIDEBAR
RELATED CONFERENCE SESSIONS 

Electrical Section Codes and Standards Forum
Jeffrey Sargent, NFPA
Monday, June 7, 8–11 a.m.

The Electrical Section Codes and Standards Forum gives you an opportunity to observe and participate in discussions on the certified amending motions to the 2011 NEC® Committee report. This report will be voted on by NFPA membership at the Technical Committee Reporting Session held at the end of the NFPA Conference. Using an open-forum approach, NEC code-making panel chairs will provide technical background supporting the position taken by their respective code-making panels on the proposals and comments that are the subject of the certified amending motions. At this session, the Electrical Section develops positions to be presented to the NFPA membership at the Association Technical Meeting.

Analysis: NEC Requirements for Critical Operations Power Systems in Industrial Facilities
Eddie Guidry and Wahab Mehmood, Fluor Enterprises, Inc.
Tuesday, June 8, 2:45–3:45 p.m.

The 2008 NEC cycle introduced Article 708, Critical Operations Power Systems (COPS). This article provides the requirements for electrical installations that require a high degree of integrity due to natural or other threats. Oil and gas refineries and some petrochemical facilities are included in this scope. This discussion will cover risk assessments, power distribution requirements, and documentation of the emergency operations plan. It will be of interest to all engineers, designers, inspectors, plant managers, and electricians who deal with industrial installations.

Don’t Call Them Windmills
Redwood Kardon, Code Check Institute
Tuesday, June 8, 2:45–3:45 p.m.

This session discusses the extreme hazards and lack of safety controls for the wind power industry. Typical wind farms being constructed today harbor some of the most extreme available fault currents that EEs and inspectors are likely to encounter. Most are being constructed without the benefit of building permits or third-party inspections or NRTL listings.

Research Planning in Support of the National Electrical Code
Kathleen Almand, Fire Protection Research Foundation; Donald Cook, Shelby County Development Services
Tuesday, June 8, 4:15–5:45 p.m.

In 2008 the Fire Protection Research Foundation formed the Advisory Committee on Electrical Safety Research. Committee members consist of leaders from the NEC panels who meet annually to discuss research needs stemming from code development activities. This session will review current research and research needs in support of current and future NEC code changes.

Spotlight Session:  Proposed Changes to NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace 
Paul Dobrowsky, Innovative Tech Services, and Palmer Hickman, National Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee

Wednesday, June 9, 11 a.m.–noon

Spotlight Session: 2011 NEC Changes Around the Corner
Michael Johnston, NECA
11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

This lively session provides the audience with a thorough review of the significant changes accepted for the 2011 NEC. The program covers revisions to current rules as well as new articles that have been included in this NEC edition. The presentation includes clear graphics and photos to illustrate the revisions. This important program provides essential information for electrical industry professionals, including installers, maintainers, engineers, contractors, and inspectors. This session is a must for remaining current in the NEC.

 

SIDEBAR
Earth First
The new NEC has a green cast to it, and it isn’t alone. Here’s the lineup for the new green conference track at the upcoming NFPA Conference and Expo. 

Can we be green without sacrificing fire, life, and building safety?

That’s the underlying question of the new “green” conference track, which will include 15 diverse education sessions at the NFPA Conference and Expo, June 7-10 in Las Vegas. This year’s green track places the environment in the limelight while emphasizing fire protection, residential sprinklers, alternative energy, and building design. “The green education track was added to support our members’ growing interest in the green building industry and because of the increasing demand for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified professionals,” says Eric Holden, NFPA’s senior product manager for training development. “Participants will receive continuing education credit, which they can apply towards earning or maintaining their LEED designation.”

GREEN DESIGN 
Sustainable Fire Safety Design: An Eco City Case Study
Bassem Gamil Farag Alla, Abu Dhabi Civil Defense; Susan Lamont, Arup
Monday, June 7, 8–9 a.m.

Fire safety can conflict with sustainable design, which aims to reduce energy, carbon emissions, and water usage. The best insulating materials are highly combustible, sprinkler systems depend on water, and fire resistance is achieved by adding materials. Solutions to these challenges and others are illustrated in this case study—a sustainable fire strategy for the first “eco city” in Abu Dhabi.

Prescriptive to Performance-Based Design in Green Buildings
Craig Hofmeister, Rolf Jensen & Associates, Inc.
Tuesday, June 8, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

The building design communities’ movement towards sustainable or environmentally friendly building designs can result in unique fire protection and life safety challenges, especially in relation to traditional building code compliance. The session discusses ways in which fire protection engineers can aid in the green building design process, from looking for efficiencies to supporting green design concepts to developing alternative approaches when prescriptive code requirements cannot specifically be met.

Building Envelope Fire Protection: How to Keep Your Building Safe from Weather and Fire 
Jonathan Barnett and Brian Kuhn, Jr., Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, Inc.
Tuesday, June 8, 4:15–5:15 p.m.

While architects and building envelope engineers design buildings to keep out the elements, fire protection engineers aim to limit fire spread. Addressing these design conflicts, this session tackles building envelope components such as roofs, curtain walls, exterior insulation and finish systems, insulation in the context of fire and building code requirements, and avoiding common pitfalls.

Green Building Construction: Concerns and Effects on Fire Protection
Bruce Clarke, Global Asset Protection Services, LLC
Wednesday, June 9, 9:30–10:30 a.m.

Legislation related to environmental concerns is affecting fire protection across the globe. The session will discuss certification and examples of fire protection design and property loss control of green building construction. 
 
RESIDENTIAL SPRINKLERS
How Green Are Fire Sprinklers?
Victoria Valentine, National Fire Sprinkler Association
Monday, June 7, 9:30–10:30 a.m.

Fire Sprinklers Are Green! 
Dominick Kasmauskas, National Fire Sprinkler Association
Tuesday, June 8, 9:30–10:30 a.m.
 

Environmental Benefit of Residential Sprinklers
Gary Keith, NFPA; Christopher Wieczorek, FM Global
Wednesday, June 9, 11 a.m.–noon 
 

Discover the green value of fire sprinkler systems and their effect on water supply, fire emissions, landfill contribution, and quantity of materials needed for reconstruction. There’s also an overview of the U.S. Green Building Council, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and how fire sprinklers have been inherently environmentally friendly for more than 130 years. Discussions will address the U.S. fire problem from an environmental perspective, recent studies, and examinations of live burns.

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY
Dispensing of Alternative Fuels—Changes to the Equipment and the Code
Robert James and Alfredo Ramirez, Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.
Monday, June 7, 11 a.m.–noon

Alternative Fuels Education
Al Ebron, National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium
Wednesday, June 9, 8–9 a.m.

Concerns surround the dispensing of alternative fuels—such as oxygenated fuels, ethanol blends, and biodiesel fuel—and maintenance of corresponding equipment. With the increased number of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles on the road today, the U.S. is faced with the challenge of properly educating technicians on the installation of alternative fuel stations and first responders on advanced technology vehicle incidents. These sessions provide an update on the latest findings, testing, and future of installation codes related to motor vehicle fuels, including proposals from NFPA 30A: Code for Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities and Repair Garages.

NFPA 2: Getting to Know the Hydrogen Technologies Code
Paul May, NFPA
Tuesday, June 8, 9:30–10:30 a.m.
 

Due to hydrogen’s growing interest and demand, all hydrogen references in NFPA documents have been compiled into a new document—NFPA 2, Hydrogen Technologies Code. Get a crash course in fundamental safeguards for generation, installation, storage, piping, use, and handling of hydrogen in compressed gas form or as a cryogenic liquid.

Fire Fighting Best Practices for Electric Vehicles and Photovoltaic Panels 
Casey Grant, Fire Protection Research Foundation
Monday, June 7, 9:30–10:30 a.m.
 

Learn about NFPA’s research project to assemble and disseminate best practice tactical information for firefighters and incident commanders when responding to emergencies involving electric drive and electric hybrid vehicles. Buildings and other structures with solar (photovoltaic) panels will also be discussed.

Don’t Call Them Windmills
Redwood Kardon, Code Check Institute
Tuesday, June 8, 2:45–3:45 p.m.

Hazards and lack of safety controls exist in the wind power industry. Most wind farms are being constructed without building permits, third-party inspections, or Nationally Recognized Tested Laboratories listings. The session discusses how wind energy harbors some of the most extreme fault currents that electrical engineers and inspectors are likely to encounter.

Inspection and Emergency Response Planning for Industrial Solar Fields
Greg Granados, Aerojet General
Tuesday, June 8, 4:15–5:15 p.m.

Pre-fire planning and inspection techniques for large solar fields on commercial and industrial sites are discussed.

FIRE SAFETY
Fire Protection and the Environment: Regulatory Issues Affecting the Fire Protection Engineer
Paul Rivers, 3M Company
Tuesday, June 8, 2:45–3:45 p.m.
 

Fire protection engineers are faced with a daunting challenge to retain the tools to practice the trade. There are daily references to non-fire-related environmental laws and regulations proposed or enacted impacting design, maintenance, and testing of needed fire protection. Learn how the Society of Fire Protection Engineer’s ethics canon, which states “fire protection engineers shall perform their professional duties in such a manner that respects the environment” and related position statements can help engineers.

Fire Fighting Foams and the Environment 
Thomas Cortina, Fire Fighting Foam Coalition
Wednesday, June 9, 9:30–10:30 a.m.

Recent research on fire fighting foam provides insight into its toxicity, biodegradation, and wastewater treatment. Learn the facts as well as new environmental and regulatory issues, including upcoming changes to foam formulations.

— Fred Durso, Jr.

 

SIDEBAR
Qualifying Who’s Qualified
NEC’s tighter definition of “qualified person” would impact users of NFPA 70E 

The revisions to Articles 690, 692, 694, and 705 in the NEC® will likely have a direct impact on the 2012 edition of NFPA 70E®, Electrical Safety in the Workplace®. Photovoltaic systems, fuel cells, and wind systems are electrical power sources, after all, and as such should only be installed and serviced by qualified persons. NEC Code-Making Panel 4 recognized the need for more restrictive requirements on what constitutes a “qualified person,” and acted to include such requirements in the 2011 NEC.

According to the NEC, the term “qualified person” is one who has skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of the electrical equipment and installations, and has received safety training to recognize and avoid the hazards involved. A closer look at the definition of  “qualified person” reveals that training in NFPA 70E and required safety-related work practices is essential. This is the case for all electrical work, not just the work associated with renewable energy systems. The same definition is provided in Article 100 of NFPA 70E, so it is clear what the expectations are of those involved with any kind of electrical installation. It is important for installers and service personnel not only to understand the construction and operational aspects of renewable energy systems and sources, but also to have the safety training necessary to perform those tasks safely.

Because the articles covering the renewable energy sources have many requirements related to the installation of direct current systems, employees will have to be trained in safety-related work practices associated with these systems. Proposals to the NFPA 70E technical committee covering safe work practices for direct current systems have been accepted, and are being considered for inclusion in the 2012 edition of the standard. The proposals acted on by the committee address both shock and arc flash hazards associated with dc systems.

— Michael Johnston

 

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