Understanding where to place disconnects on solar and storage projects can feel complicated if you’re unfamiliar with the National Electrical Code (NEC). In fact, some inspectors (like Pete Jackson, Chief Electrical Inspector for the City of Bakersfield, mentioned in IREC’s Conversations from the Field) are seeing an abundance of disconnects (we’re talking 10+), not because they’re necessary or required, but instead because installers don’t understand the code well enough to properly install the required ones. 

Not only does installing extra components add cost to an installation, it also can add confusion when first responders are attempting to shut down a system in the event of an emergency. 

In this short excerpt from the NEC 2020 and 2023 Solar-Plus-Storage Requirements course, HeatSpring instructor Ryan Mayfield breaks down some of the key elements of installing disconnects on storage projects from NEC 2023 Article 706.15(B). 

If you’d like to refine your solar and storage installation skills by diving deeper into the NEC, consider enrolling in the Ryan’s NEC 2020 and 2023 Solar-Plus-Storage Requirements course where you can get all of your burning questions answered by Ryan and the Mayfield Education Team.

So here is in [NEC] 2023, 706.15 (B) talks about [ESS disconnecting means] location and control. This is new in 2023. Here’s that list again.

It’s very similar to the 2020 language, but it’s not exactly the same. One of the key things there is if you look at that,  the first sentence in there, disconnecting means shall be readily accessible and shall comply with one or more of the following. 

So we have to have it be readily accessible.That’s a definition in article 100. Encourage you to go look at it if you need to. Readily accessible is a disconnect that the person who needs ready access can walk up to. They’re not going to have to use a ladder. They don’t have to move any equipment. They don’t have to move things out of the way.

It’s something they can access, but it is something that could be behind a locked door, because the person who needs that access would have the key. A key is not considered a tool in that case, so that’s something just to keep in mind. 

But the list that we have here is located within the ESS within sight and within three meters or 10 feet of the ESS. The reason why is that they list out the site and within three meters. This is important to note just because – code – if you go look in article 100 definition of within sight, it’s visual and within 50 feet. So in this case, we’ve shrunk down what within sight means or what the allowance would be, the distance allowance is, for that disconnect. 

But then that final allowance says that we can have a disconnecting means that’s not located within sight, as long as the disconnect can be locked in accordance with 110.25. 

If you go back to 110.25,  that requirement just says that the locking mechanism shall remain in place without the lock. If you think about your lockout tag out, sometimes we have breaker locks, put the breaker into the off position. You put a little lockout on there and you put your lock in place and you can’t turn that breaker back on. But that little piece is removable, so it doesn’t stay there all the time.

If you have a disconnect with a hasp on it or you have a disconnect with a latch on it where you can place a lock and that lockable mechanism remains in place, whether or not the lock is there, that meets the requirements. 

This is going to be the guiding principle for our requirements on the disconnected means and how we are going to apply those.