Interactive Inverter Interconnections: Page 3 of 6
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This new method of interconnection is particularly advantageous when you are adding a new panelboard to aggregate multiple inverter output circuits, as might be the case on a commercial project deployed with 3-phase string inverters or a residential project deployed with microinverters. Since this method accommodates load breakers, you are free to add breakers to an inverter aggregation panel to supply power to monitoring equipment or equipment servicing receptacles. You could also use this method to connect an interactive system to a lightly loaded subpanel. Note that you must include a warning label to ensure that the installation remains Code compliant in the future:
THIS EQUIPMENT FED BY MULTIPLE SOURCES.
TOTAL RATING OF ALL OVERCURRENT DEVICES
EXCLUDING MAIN SUPPLY OVERCURRENT DEVICE
SHALL NOT EXCEED AMPACITY OF BUSBAR.
Center-fed panels in dwellings. During the 2017 cycle of revisions, the Code-Making Panel introduced a new busbar interconnection method that applies specifically to center-fed panelboards in dwellings. With a center-fed panelboard, the main breaker is located in the middle of the busbar, rather than at the top. This center-fed configuration makes it impossible to locate the utility and inverter supplies at opposite ends of the busbar as required to comply with the standard 120% allowance. Due to the diversity factor that applies to residential loads, the Code-Making Panel determined that it is safe to apply the 120% allowance (see Equation 2, to center-fed panelboards in dwellings, provided that the inverter POC is located at only one end of the busbar [2014-TIA 14-12; 2017-705.12(B)(2)(3)(d)]. In Figure 6, for example, you could connect a parallel power source to either the top or the bottom of the busbar, but not to both ends.
Solar companies that encounter center-fed panelboards will welcome this new interconnection method. Since center-fed panelboards are relatively common in California, it is not uncommon for solar customers there to incur $2,000–$3,000 service upgrades in order for system integrators to interconnect even small residential PV systems. The new 120% allowance for center-fed panelboards in dwellings eliminates these expenses where they are otherwise unnecessary. In August 2016, the National Fire Protection Association issued a rare Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA), 14-12, which retroactively adds the center-fed panel allowance to NEC 2014 as 705.12(D)(2)(3)(e).
It is a good idea to speak to your AHJ prior to making this type of connection under NEC 2014. Though this is an official change to the 2014 Code edition, the revised language will not appear in hard copy of the Code, which could cause some confusion. Code does not specifically require a warning label, but it is advisable to add such a label alongside the inverter breaker to ensure that the installation remains compliant in the future. This warning label might read:
POWER SOURCE OUTPUT CONNECTION—
DO NOT RELOCATE THIS OVERCURRECT DEVICE.
DO NOT ADD SOURCE AT OTHER END OF BUSBAR.
Multiple-ampacity busbars. Panelboards with multiple-ampacity busbars are primarily found in industrial applications and do not fit neatly into any of the previous categories. Since there is no practical limit to as-built conditions, it is necessary to evaluate each situation individually to ensure that a proposed POC is safe. To make a Code-compliant connection to a multiple-ampacity busbar [2014-705.12(D)(3)(d); 2017-705.12(B)(2)(3)(e)], a supervising engineer must evaluate busbar loading and available fault currents.
CONNECTIONS TO CONDUCTORS
Although connections to conductors are less common than connections to busbars, the NEC allows them under certain conditions. This method of interconnection is perhaps most common when a suitably sized feeder is significantly closer to or more accessible from the proposed inverter location than a suitable panelboard is. In such a scenario, connecting to the feeder conductor results in meaningful savings.
When evaluating a conductor’s suitability as a POC, several general rules apply. Where you are making an inverter connection to a feeder or tap, the ampacity of the conductor must be equal to or greater than 125% of the inverter output circuit current [705.60]. Inverter output circuit conductors must be protected in accordance with Article 240 [705.65], and the number and location of OCPDs must provide protection from all sources [705.30]. Any feeder or feeder tap conductor supplying loads must have adequate ampacity to supply the loads [215.2(A)(1)]. Conductor ampacities must account for actual conditions of use, including ambient temperature and conduit fill [310.15]. Note that the formulas in this section will determine the minimum conductor ampacity before the applicable conditions of use.
Provided that the system meets these general criteria, the Code allows for direct connections to feeders or indirect connections via tap conductors [240.2].