ASK THE EXPERTS: PV Roof Setbacks

Beginner

I’m wondering why so many of the photos shown do not comply with the roof setback requirements that are used by and required for firefighters?

Bill Loesch • Saint Louis Solar

There are a number of photos that likely don’t adhere to the various fire code requirements in the International Fire Code and in local jurisdictions, but part of the problem is the varying degree of implementation across the country and the year in which the codes are adopted. So the photos used may be in full compliance for their locations at the time the systems were installed. And there are situations for which variances may have been granted, or in which there are differences between the IFC and local requirements.

To quote Matt Paiss of the San Jose, California, fire department from a SolarPro article:

Each state or jurisdiction adopts the fire code of choice according to its own procedures, and updates code editions according to its own calendar. According to a database maintained by the ICC, as of March 2014, approximately 23 states have adopted the IFC at the state level. Ten of these states—including California—have already adopted IFC 2012, which includes the new requirements for PV systems; seven states are still enforcing the 2009 edition; four states have yet to update from IFC 2006; and two states are still enforcing the 2003 edition.

The exact numbers may have changed since Matt wrote this, but this illustrates the difficulty of representing all systems as IFC-compliant even more. I think as time passes and more jurisdictions adopt current codes, the discrepancies will diminish, but there will always be some differences—just as there are with NEC-compliant systems.

Ryan Mayfield • Renewable Energy Associates

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