New solar learning videos target local code officials, other building professionals

The United States is on track to install 4 million residential solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays by 2020. Ensuring that these installations meet current codes and standards is the job of building and electrical inspectors. To help code officials, architects, builders and solar installers keep up with the latest solar codes and safety requirements, Interstate Renewable Energy Council You are leaving WAPA.gov. (IREC) has added new informational videos to its suite of training resources.

In just a few short years, the number of residential solar installs in the US has increased exponentially.

In just a few short years, the number of residential solar installs in the US has increased exponentially. (Artwork by Interstate Renewable Energy Council)

IREC partnered with the International Association of Electrical Inspectors You are leaving WAPA.gov. (IAEI) and the International Code Council You are leaving WAPA.gov. (ICC) to develop resources for code officials to learn the key aspects of solar technology related to their trade. The educational videos target a broad audience by highlighting the inspection process. Code officials who have experience inspecting solar installations will be reminded of important details of the process. Inspectors who are new to solar PV will be introduced to essential aspects of the inspection and referred to more detailed training.

“Officials involved in the planning, inspection and permitting of residential solar installations now have access to solar training and education in their office, at home and in the field,” says IREC Director of Workforce Development Laure-Jeanne Davignon. “The wide variety of tools allows code officials new to solar and experienced professionals to learn in the format they choose: in-person, online, printable documents or videos.”

IAEI CEO David Clements called the videos a “must-see” and an excellent resource to educate code officials and inspectors working in the field on residential solar installations. “Training from the NEC® You are leaving WAPA.gov. (National Electrical Code), along with other codes and standards, has become a critical combination to ensure a safe installation,” he stated in a press release. “Knowledge and knowing how to apply it will ensure a code compliant installation.”

ICC and IAEI regional chapters have begun hosting one-day trainings where code officials can learn the steps of accurate, consistent solar permit plan review. The trainings focus on the pre-inspection work of reviewing and approving the plan. To complement what they learn in the class, or as an introduction beforehand, participants can watch two new brief videos on the details of residential solar inspection. Residential Solar Inspection Best Practices Part 1: RooftopYou are leaving WAPA.gov. and Residential Solar Inspection Best Practices Part 2: Ground Level You are leaving WAPA.gov. both run a little over four minutes. Professionals can take a deeper dive into field inspection practices in a self-paced online trainingYou are leaving WAPA.gov. All classes and resources are free to participants as part of the Department of Energy SunShot Solar Training and Education for Professionals (STEP) program.

More than 5,000 professionals have engaged in the PV Online Training since it became available in 2012. The new in-person plan review course is being very well received, too, with more than 2,500 participants to date. Evaluations from participants have applauded the hands-on approach to the material and the way it connects the different aspects of inspection to each other and to real-life scenarios.

For more information on these training opportunities, contact IREC at 518-621-7379.

Source: Interstate Renewable Energy Council, 9/13/17

Electro-Tech Expo showcases efficient technology

For the 16th year, a Western customer and an investor-owned utility are teaming up to expose energy professionals in the Upper Great Plains region to cutting-edge equipment and systems and the latest in best construction practices.

US Chamber of Commerce Senior Policy Director Heath Knakmuhs spoke at the 15th annual Electro-Technology Expo last year. The event attracts policy makers as well as experts from across the electronics, construction and utility industries.

US Chamber of Commerce Senior Policy Director Heath Knakmuhs spoke at the 15th annual Electro-Technology Expo last year. The event attracts policy makers as well as experts from across the electronics, construction and utility industries. (Photo by Black Hills Power)

The 2016 Electro-Technology Expo  You are leaving Western's site. will take place, Jan. 21, 2016, at the Ramkota Best Western Inn and Convention Center in Rapid City, South Dakota. West River Electric Association You are leaving Western's site. of Wall, South Dakota, and Black Hills Power You are leaving Western's site. of Rapid City co-sponsor this popular event. Western also supports the Expo as a co-sponsor. UGP Energy Services Representative Georganne Myers said, “It’s a great place for our customers to network and learn so much in one day, and the price is affordable.” Admission to Electro-Technology Expo is $30, which includes qualifying code hours and continuing education credits.

Something for everybody
In fact, the Electro-Technology Expo is designed specifically to bring professionals together. This year’s Keynote Speaker is Mike Eggl, senior vice president of Communications and Administration for Basin Electric Power Cooperative You are leaving Western's site.. Vendors display state-of-the-art, energy-efficiency technology on the exhibit floor where utility program managers and contractors can inspect the equipment and get answers to their questions. Industry experts conduct workshops on topics of concern to power providers, facility managers and building industry professionals.

This year’s sessions include:

  • LED street and area lighting case studies – several sessions plus vendor booths
  • Demand management systems
  • Geothermal systems
  • Energy-efficient lighting technology
  • Home weatherization
  • Sustainability incentives
  • Electrical code classes (three sessions)
  • Motors and drives
  • Heat pump system troubleshooting
  • Hydronic in-floor heating systems
  • Changes in water heater regulations
  • Utility energy-efficiency program overview

Organizers distribute surveys at the end of the event to ask attendees for suggestions on future topics. “We start working on the next Expo the day after,” said Black Hills Power Energy Services Engineer Don Martinez.

Going strong
The value of the Expo shows in its enduring popularity. Attendance has grown over the years to more than 300 in 2015. Part of the growth has to do with an explosion of energy-related technologies. “Each year, attendees can count on seeing something new,” Martinez observed. “So much is happening in the industry, it can be hard to keep up. The Expo is a one-day crash course.”

The speaker roster is drawn mainly from vendors and suppliers, who have the opportunity to reach out to potential customers. Design and construction professionals; facility energy managers; building system specialists and real estate sales representatives, appraisers and inspectors can network with one another. Utility professionals get to meet with attendees from industries that have a profound effect on energy use.

The Expo planning committee has also built relationships with the local trade schools and school of mines. “It’s a chance to familiarize students with different aspects of the energy industry and let them know what kind of careers are out there for them,” Martinez explained. “The Expo is not a job fair, but connections happen,” he added.

Spreading efficiency
Putting on an event like the Expo is a lot of work that many utilities would consider beyond their scope. For Black Hills and West River, however, the Expo is a way to educate customers about equipment and practices that can reduce utility bills and operating costs. Getting trade allies excited about more efficient products to offer their customers has an upstream effect, as well, driving eventual market transformation.

The benefits of creating a forum for sharing information about energy-efficiency technologies and practices are significant enough to get a public power utility and an investor-owned utility to work together. “It is not often you see a joint effort between a public power utility and an IOU,” acknowledged Martinez. “But customer education is an important part of every power provider’s mission.”

For more information about the 2016 Electro-Technology Expo, on either attending or exhibiting, contact Jamie Hill at 605-721-2276.