Interactive Inverter Interconnections: Page 4 of 6
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Connections to feeders. Solar professionals routinely connect PV systems to the end of a feeder, opposite the primary source OCPD. The Code also allows for a connection to other locations in a feeder, provided that the conductor on the load side of the inverter output is protected [2014-705.12(D)(2)(1); 2017-705.12(B)(2)(1)]. System integrators have two options for protecting this portion of the feeder.
Option 1: Make sure that power sources do not exceed conductor ampacity. The first protection option is based on the logic that the downstream conductor is protected as long as it is rated to carry power from all sources. In other words, the connection is compliant as long as the sum of the primary power source (the main OCPD rating) and the interactive power source (125% of the inverter output circuit current) does not exceed the ampacity of the feeder, specifically between the POC and the loads [2014-705.12(D)(2)(1)(a); 2017-705.12(B)(2)(1)(a)]. Figure 7 illustrates this schematically.
Note that this conductor connection method effectively assumes two different feeder ampacities. The ampacity of feeder A, which is upstream from the POC and protected by the primary supply breaker, needs to be greater than 125% of the inverter output circuit currents. Since there are loads at the other end of the feeder, however, the ampacity of feeder B and any downstream busbars must account for both the primary and the parallel power sources. You can use Equations 4a and 4b to verify Code compliance in this scenario:
Feeder A ≥ Inverter Current x 125% [4a]
Feeder B ≥ Supply OCPD + (Inverter Current x 125%) [4b]
Opportunities to take advantage of this feeder connection option are relatively few and far between, simply because it is uncommon to come across oversized conductors and busbars in the field. Generally speaking, it is cost prohibitive to upgrade the downstream feeder conductor unless its length is short and the downstream panelboard already has an oversized busbar.
Option 2: Add an OCPD on the load side of the feeder. The second, and generally more practical, option uses an overcurrent device to protect the downstream feeder. In this scenario, the POC is compliant so long as the ampacity of the feeder is greater than or equal to the OCPD rating on the load side of the inverter connection [2014-705.12(D)(2)(1)(b); 2017-705.12(B)(2)(1)(b)]. Figure 8 shows a connection with a breaker added to protect the downstream feeder and busbar.
Note that the size of the OCPD on the load side of the inverter POC must also take the downstream loads into account. One way to install an OCPD in the feeder is to add a new panelboard at the POC to enclose the inverter breaker and the load breaker. Alternative methods could use wireway with fused disconnects. Either way, this interconnection method likely involves splicing and extending the feeder with the possible addition of tap conductors, which are subject to unique Code requirements (discussed next). You can use Equations 5a and 5b to ensure that this type of connection to a feeder conductor is Code compliant:
Feeder Ampacity ≥ Inverter Current x 125% [5a]
Load-Side Breaker ≤ Feeder Ampacity [5b]
Connections involving tap conductors. The ability to connect to feeders using tap conductors offers solar professionals additional flexibility when optimizing site-specific interconnections. The Code provides multiple allowances, based on tap length or location, for tapping feeder conductors without overcurrent protection at the tap [240.21(B)]. New language in Article 705 clarifies how these general tap rules apply where inverter output connections use tap conductors. Specifically, the Code requires that you base the OCPD rating used to determine the ampacity of tap conductors per 240.21(B) on the sum of the source OCPD and 125% of the inverter output circuit current [2014-705.12(D)(2)(2); 2017-705.12(B)(2)(2)].
The following examples illustrate how to apply tap conductor rules where you are using taps for downstream loads, inverters or both. These specific examples assume that the tap conductors are not longer than 25 feet and that some portion of the tap conductors is located indoors. Moreover, some general rules apply that merit reviewing. You are allowed to tap feeder conductors but not other tap conductors [240.21(B)]. You are generally not allowed to tap branch circuits [210.19]. You are not allowed to tap inverter output circuits [240.4(E), 705.12(D)(1)]. You must size any conductors serving loads, including taps, to supply the load [Article 220, Part III]. You must provide overcurrent protection for panelboards connected to tap conductors [408.36].