New IREC program will get building, safety officials up to speed on solar technology

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The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) launched a three-year, $2.1 million project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), to reduce barriers to widespread adoption of distributed energy resources (DERs) by providing education and resources to expand the knowledge of 30,000 safety professionals. 

Building, fire, and safety officials play a critical role in enabling the safe, widespread, and rapid deployment of new technologies that make the grid more sustainable and resilient. These include energy storage systems (ESS), electric vehicles (EVs), and grid-interactive energy efficient building technologies. However, these emerging technologies have outpaced codes and existing educational resources, creating an urgent need for up-to-date guidance for this audience. 

By increasing the familiarity and confidence of these key stakeholders to permit and inspect DERs, the project will reduce barriers to widespread DER deployment. The project will tackle several unique challenges: rapid changes in emerging technology, the evolving needs of those on the front lines of DER adoption, and the ability to cost-effectively reach a nationwide audience.

“Building and safety officials—such as building and electrical inspectors and fire marshals—are critical stakeholders for enabling the safe and efficient installation of clean energy and related technologies,” said Larry Sherwood, President and CEO of IREC. “As these technologies evolve rapidly, it will be imperative that they have access to relevant training and up-to-date resources. This project will make that a reality.” 

Those interested in receiving email updates about this project can sign up here

The project will create one of the most widely-accessed DER information clearinghouse websites to house expert information on clean energy codes, standards, permitting, and inspection. Educational content and resources will be regularly added to this clearinghouse website designed to engage a diverse audience. Concurrently, IREC will develop modular online training for the plan review and inspection of solar PV systems, energy storage systems, and EV charging infrastructure. 

The team members that join IREC on this project are experts in their respective areas: International Code Council (ICC); International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI); National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM); Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL); University of Central Florida – FSEC Energy Research Center (UCF-FSEC); Energy Storage Association (ESA); and UL LLC. 

Each partner brings the critical perspective of its stakeholders to inform education solutions, as well as broad networks that will allow the team to collectively drive thousands to the website to increase their knowledge of and confidence in DER technologies. This team previously  collaborated on a U.S. Department of Energy-funded project to successfully train 15,000 code officials and fire service personnel on solar technologies. 

“Ensuring Fire Marshals and other safety officials fully understand solar, storage, energy efficiency, and alternative fuels is critical to meeting our mission of protecting human life, property, and the environment from fire and related hazards,” said Jim Narva, NASFM Executive Director. “Partnering with IREC on this project will foster relationships between all the stakeholders, raising the safety bar for these systems.”

“The clean energy industry is rapidly evolving and requires that those responsible for code enforcement and quality control have access to the most recent technical advances. Training is a core mission of FSEC, and we’re excited to contribute our expertise in solar-plus-storage and alternative fuel vehicles as part of this essential team,” said James Fenton, Director of FSEC Energy Research Center at the University of Central Florida.

The project team was selected as a part of the Educational Materials for Professional Organizations Working on Efficiency and Renewable Energy Developments (EMPOWERED) funding program, a collaborative effort across EERE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, Building Technologies Office, and Vehicle Technologies Office

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