Contractors Guide: Release notes

As we continue to improve and update SolarAPP+ to improve Installer experience, certain processes may change from their original form. To help installers stay up to date and understand if and how each release impacts the permitting process, we will provide detailed notes along with each release.

To view the full Software Releases notes, please visit SolarAPP+ Software Releases.

January 25, 2022

Extended model code support to code cycle 2020/2021

We have extended model code support from a single code cycle combination (2017 NEC, 2018 IBC/IRC) to both the "2017/2018" and "2020/2021" code cycles. In the near term, all jurisdictions are expected to remain within the "2017/2018" code cycle, but jurisdictions who have adopted the more recent codes can now utilize SolarAPP+.

AFCI logic requirements improved

To reduce the likelihood that AFCI requirements are overlooked at inspection due to a contractor input error, the inspection item, "Where relocated loads are extended greater than 6 feet, then AFCI breakers are installed according to Article 210," will now always be shown when the contractor indicates they are installing a new subpanel.

Power Control Systems (PCS)

On jurisdictions that enforce the 2020 NEC, PCS tie-ins are now available at the Main Service Panel, Existing Subpanels or New Subpanels. When available, you will be able to select it just as any other interconnection compliance method, such as the 120% rule, and some specific items to guarantee compliance with 705.13 will show.

Interconnection sections

The interconnection section in the inspection checklist and long form were modified to make them flexible enough to handle both Code Cycles (2017/2018 and 2020/2021). In addition, PCS was added as a new method of interconnection. As a part of this, the Center-Fed 120% rule and End-Fed 120% rule options were merged into one to avoid discrepancies with the approval documents and the installation.

Tooltips

A functionality for displaying contractor helper text (tooltips) right next to challenging questions was created along with descriptive language to assist the contractor with input questions. We will expand tooltip coverage to the most challenging inputs in upcoming releases. All code references were removed from input dropdowns and can now be found in the helper texts (tooltips).

Total ESS energy rating verifications

Various checks for PV+ST NEC 2020 requirements were built into the system. Among them, individual energy ratings must be below 20kWh, while cumulative energy ratings must be below 40kWh when installed within utility closets, basements, and storage or utility spaces and below 80kWh when installed in other eligible locations.

Homeowner information

The homeowner name is now required as an input at permit submittal, and the contractor must attest that they have the right to install on the property.

Helper Links

All links in the application form will now open a separate tab in the browser.

Energy Storage System provisions for California

Provisions from the California Title 24 amendments adopted July 1, 2021, were moved from the Fire Bulletin into the project application forms. and SolarAPP+ now verifies storage capacity ratings at permit submittal.


Addition to Inspector Guidelines

The "General Guidelines" section of the inspection checklist will now have an item saying: "Conduit sizing to be confirmed at time of inspection. Contractor to provide conduit fill calculations where requested by inspector."

Minor fix in ESS application flow

Moved the question, "Are the ESS model 1 and PV Inverter certified as a single unit with no field wiring between the battery components and the inverter components? (Note: Only up to two PV string inverters are supported)" after "Upload datasheet for ESS model 1" to improve the flow of the permit application.

December 13, 2021

Inspection checklist guidelines

Added General Guidelines section at the top of the inspection checklist to clarify that equipment must follow instructions in manufacturers' documentation, wire size values are a minimum and may be upsized, and installed OCPD ratings must exactly match those on the inspection checklist. These are meant to clarify the responsibilities of the contractor and the intent of the SolarAPP+ inspection checklist and process.

Structural checks for energy storage equipment mounting

There have been some modifications to the structural checks for energy storage equipment (ESS) to more closely match ASCE-7-16 13.1.4, including but not limited to:

  • Addition of seismic design categories E and F to the supported options
  • The energy storage equipment is required to be positively attached to the structure in seismic design categories greater than or equal to "C", regardless of its weight.
  • For seismic design categories greater than or equal to "D", the weight is limited to 400 pounds.
  • For seismic design categories greater than or equal to "D", unless the equipment weighs less than 20 pounds, its center of mass is required to be located less than 4ft above the ground.

Expansion of allowable backup initiation devices

The technologies available for use as backup initiation devices have been expanded; we now support:

  • Microgrid Interconnect Devices (MID)
  • Automatic Transfer Switches (ATS)

Both of the above are supported in the following formats:

  • Standalone cabinet
  • Internal to the hybrid inverter
  • Meter socket adapter

Support for multiple ESS and Battery models

To allow for more flexibility and a greater amount of eligible projects, up to 3 ESS models or 3 battery models can be used. Yo specify the amount of models used, contractors will need to answer the following questions in the application:

  • Batteries: "How many distinct Battery Models will be installed?"
  • ESS: "How many distinct Energy Storage System Models will be installed?"

Please note that the amount of models is different from the unit quantity for each model, and you still can specify the quantity of units for each model. For traditional single model installations, you will just answer "1" to either of the above questions.

Main Lug Only Panels

Main lug only panels, otherwise known as a "hot bus" or a "six-handle rule" panel, are now an option for supply side connections. When this option is selected, a provision to verify that the sum of the service breaker ratings being at least 100 A will be shown on the inspection checklist, and you will be able to select a service breaker of less than 100 A for your generation sources.

PV only combiner panel OCPD

With the goal of improving clarity, the PV only combiner panel OCPD rating question was moved up into the "Equipment - Inverter" section, next to the question about the busbar size of the PV only combiner panel.

NM Wire is now restricted to AC Modules and Microinverters

The use of NM wire in string inverter output is largely non-existent on the industry. Retaining NM wire as an option for the installer has resulted in a large number of contractor input errors. Because of this, the use of NM wire is now restricted to AC module and microinverter projects only.

October 28, 2021

Maximum quantity of modules in a DC series string

We expanded the acceptable range for the maximum quantity of modules in a DC series string and modified compatibility conditions to ensure compliance with the National Electric Code's rapid shutdown requirements. For DC-DC converters, the longest possible string is now 30. For the Mid Circuit Interrupters (MCIs) used in string inverters without DC-DC converters, the longest possible string is still 17.

October 14, 2021

Table calculation error messages improved for clarity
Error messages derived from table calculations have been improved for enhanced readability. Error messages triggered by table calculations now contain the table number where the calculation is being done, followed by references to the inputs that cause the error in the table. For example:
R119: Unsupported entries to table 1: number of conductors - 2, average high temperature - 100, nameplate isc - 10.52. Please verify your inputs and ensure none of them are causing any table parameters to be outside of the acceptable range.

Project types can be revised!

For jurisdictions that have enabled PV+ST (PV projects paired with energy storage equipment) as an eligible project type, contractors now have the ability to change the project type from PV to PV+ST and vice versa. This feature will save (a) time, as it removes the need for the contractor to create a new application if revising the project type, and (b) money, as the contractor will be able to use the same approval ID and treat the change as a resubmittal. The "Change Project Type" button will not be an available option if PV+ST is not an enabled project type for the jurisdiction in which you are submitting the project.

October 6, 2021

Approval uploads dashboard enabled for installers

Installers can now manage their uploaded documents used in their permits such as inverter cutsheets and racking system install manuals. To use this feature, the installer can access the dashboard through the dropdown menu with their name on the top right of the navigation bar (the same menu where you would access the projects dashboard or log out). At the moment, the only action supported in the upload dashboard is to delete existing approval uploads, allowing the installer to easily manage permit applications with the latest information for their products.

New language for inputs: combined strings in parallel

In the past, a single question checked whether the installer was combining DC series strings in parallel and asked the installer to verify if the number of combined strings exceeded two on a single branch. This approach made the question confusing, and we split the question into two parts for clarity. The first question asks if the installer is combining strings in parallel, and the second question verifies that the amount of combined DC strings does not exceed two.

DC-DC converter and Mid Circuit Interrupter (MCI) revamp

We expanded and updated the questions that verify the code compliance of the installer MLPE equipment and rapid shutdown requirements. SolarAPP+ now includes two new internal databases to meet these requirements: a database for DC-DC converters, and a database for Mid Circuit Interrupters (MCI). The converter and MCI databases ensures that installed equipment matches the input equipment on the SolarAPP+ forms. The databases enable us to verify that the input ratings of MLPE equipment are not being exceeded. If you cannot find the MLPE equipment needed for your installations please reach out to [email protected] and we will help you with incorporating the equipment into our database, provided it has the appropriate listings and code compliance requirements.

PV inverter and ESS voltage and short circuit current in labels added to the inspection checklist

SolarAPP+ will calculate the PV inverter and Energy Storage System (ESS) voltage and short circuit current, which must be shown in the labeling on site. This data will be part of the inspection checklist verifications, please ensure that the inspection checklist current and voltage values match your labels on site to avoid any issues at the time of inspection.

Equipment Rating options for Load Side Tap and Supply Side Connection expanded

After we standardized the equipment rating inputs in equipment dropdown lists, we received feedback from installers stating that some of the standard ratings of the equipment used to perform a supply side connection or load side taps (such as piercing connectors) were not included in the new dropdown options. Thanks to this feedback, we have expanded the dropdown lists to incorporate the ratings of the requested equipment.

August 5, 2021

Support for DC Coupled Batteries in Energy Storage Equipment 

For jurisdictions that have enabled it, the contractor will now be able to select PV + storage as a project type when beginning to submit a new project and use a DC Coupled Battery with a Hybrid Inverter. Contractors must select the type of energy storage equipment used in the 'Equipment: Energy Storage Architecture' box on the Electrical page; energy storage systems (ESS) and DC coupled batteries are eligible options. The selection determines the range of values for manufacturer and model numbers, which must be specified, in the dropdown menus. All storage equipment information is uploaded from the California Energy Commission's database of solar equipment. The contractor must also provide datasheets for storage equipment and specify the location of the device and the number of batteries, if applicable.

Load Side Taps / Interconnection at Subpanel Feeders

Load side taps have now been enabled for PV and PV + storage projects. Contractors will see a new field, 'Point of Interconnection at Subpanel Feeders,' on the Electrical page. Among other input fields, contractors must select the compliance method for the point of interconnection at subpanel feeders along with the equipment used, such as piercing connectors or terminal lugs at a Microgrid Interconnection Device.

June 28, 2021

String Inverters Custom OCPDs

The contractor now has the ability to choose the size of the OCPD that will protect the output of string inverters, given that the OCPD meets or exceeds the SolarAPP+ calculated minimum. When the desired OCPD is above the SolarAPP+ calculated minimum, the output circuit will be sized using the rating of the OCPD instead of the inverter output circuit current to prevent wire under sizing.

Conduit

The conduit sizing function has been removed from the SolarAPP+ code compliance evaluation.  Many conditions of installation may warrant a larger diameter wire be installed than SolarAPP may designate, such as consideration for voltage drop.  An inspector in the field may utilize their better judgement in the application of the code as it is common practice to field validate conduit fill.

Microinverter/AC modules branch OCPD undersized

Previously, when the contractor had selected to use a device rated for 20A for individual branch circuits of microinverters or AC modules, SolarAPP+ continued to indicate a 15A overcurrent protective device was required. This bug has been fixed, and now a device rated for 20A can be installed, as long as the connected circuit is properly rated.

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