Three-hundred and eighteen clean energy companies are calling on International Code Council (ICC) voters to reject a code proposal from FEMA that could cause a spike in cost for U.S. clean energy projects, and instead proposed a set of compromise solutions.
The proposed FEMA change to the 2024 International Building Code, S76-22, would require solar, storage and wind projects to meet risk category IV requirements, the most stringent category possible, that includes facilities like public utilities and power-generating stations.
“The stated goal of FEMA’s proposal is increased grid reliability, but when you needlessly make it harder to build resilient clean energy, the obvious effect is a reduction in reliability,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “This overreach is being made in an opaque process without input from experts on economic impacts, electric reliability and climate change. America’s solar and storage industry is urging International Code Council voters to consider the real-world impact of this code and approve SEIA’s compromise proposals.”
FEMA officials themselves confirmed they support the proposals put forward by SEIA and supported by the Distributed Wind Energy Association, according to oral testimony on Sept. 15 and a voter’s guide that FEMA mailed out to voters on Oct. 13.
This compromise framework (S79-22 and S81-22) includes a carve-out for solar projects to be designated as Risk Category 2. It includes a slight increase in structural requirements for solar facilities without leaping in cost by 30 to 40%, according to an estimate by Roth Capital Partners.
By contrast, the FEMA proposal will require clean energy projects, which are critical to fighting climate change, to be built to withstand damaging natural disasters far beyond what is needed, SEIA stated in a press release. The organization expects that the switch to category IV will result in dozens of gigawatts of canceled clean energy projects.
The voting period for ICC members runs from Oct. 17 through Nov. 1.
News item from SEIA
“The proposed FEMA change to the 2024 International Building Code, S76-22, would require solar, storage and wind projects to meet risk category IV requirements, the most stringent category possible, that includes facilities like public utilities and power-generating stations.”
Therein lies the “conflict”. An article here today points out insurance companies are trying to figure out the “actual risk” of solar PV installations. Installations on home and small business roofs, commercial and industrial buildings will be affected like solar PV farms in the utility sector. In the final analysis, would adopting International Building Code S76-22 push insurance companies to relax rates on systems that meet this criteria? Or will it push the insurance companies to raise rates on older ‘noncompliant’ S76-22 Code solar PV systems already in service? I could also see this becoming a ‘flood insurance’ nightmare, where folks get flood insurance, to be ‘affordable’ they end up with a large deductable to keep insurance rates down. Between this and rote IOU electric utilities and their TOU rate spiking programs, it might be better to install smart ESS on one’s home (first) and add solar PV later if one determines Code compliance and insurance rates will erase solar PV and smart ESS advantages over the long term.
” The organization expects that the switch to category IV will result in dozens of gigawatts of canceled clean energy projects.”
In the utility solar PV sector, there are options like (First Solar) that have frameless bonded all glass modules in utility sized panels that also have a cradle to cradle program where First Solar grinds up old and broken panels and extracts the CdTe to use on the panel manufacturing line again. The code and insurance “agencies” also need to take into account the amortization of such technology over the life of the generation project said to be at least 25 years if natural disaster does not strike. It looks like solar PV farms and even wind farms can amortize in 10 years, something the typical 30 to 50 year amortization of fueled generation plants haven’t done.