Who Can Install BIPV?

We don’t encounter much Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) products out in the market place.

Often times architects are drawn to the beauty of a window that can also produce electricity or shingles that function as both a roof and a PV array. The problem is that BIPV is often more expensive, less efficient, and has long-term maintenance issues.

Even so, who is allowed to install BIPV in Washington? Can a roofer, an electrician, or glazier? Let’s look at the Revised Code of Washington (RCW.)

PV must be installed by a licensed electrician

In general, RCW 19.28.041, RCW 19.28.161, and RCW 19.28.006 definitions of “Equipment” and “Electrical construction trade” require that all parts and components of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems be installed and maintained by properly licensed electrical contractors and certified electricians.

Construction contractors are only allowed to “place” BIPV

Construction contractors who are not electrical contractors are not properly licensed to install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels except in very specific applications as described in WAC 296-46B-690. The allowance in WAC 296-46B-690(5) permits construction contractors and uncertified individuals to place only “building integrated” PV panels but all electrical work, including wiring installation, terminations, etc., necessary to complete the electrical installations must be completed by the entity that obtained the electrical work permit.

WAC 296-46B-690(5) states: The entity placing a building integrated cell, module, panel, or array is not subject to the requirements for electrical inspection, licensing, or certification so long as the work is limited to the placement and securing of the device and an electrical work permit has been previously obtained for the electrical work related to the equipment by an entity authorized to do that electrical work.

Always make sure that your contractor is licensed for the work

This rule became necessary because of the proliferation of materials that serve a dual function as photovoltaic components and building exterior finish materials such as roofing, siding, and windows. It does not allow non-electrical contractors and uncertified individuals to install PV system materials unless they meet the definition of building integrated and the requirements stated in WAC 296-46B-690. The definition of “building integrated” PV panels is from the National Electrical Code, and is defined in rule as follows: WAC 296-46B-690(1) Building integrated: means photovoltaic cells, modules, panels, or arrays that are integrated into the outer surface or structure of a building and serve as the outer protective surface of that building, such as the roof, skylights, windows, or facades.