What is New Mexico’s Solar Energy Code?
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Like everything involving electricity, there are codes and regulations that must be followed when it comes to solar energy. Most of these are building codes, which determine whether it is safe to add a solar PV installation to an existing building. Other electrical codes determine more technical details of solar installation, such as system specifications, conduit, wiring, and electrical codes for certain kinds of solar installations.
The 2 Types of New Mexico Solar Energy Code
There are two main levels of building codes that are going to affect your installation. There are state-level building codes and local building codes. Local building codes generally do not have the ability to trump the state-level codes, just as state-level laws cannot take precedence over federal-level laws. We’ll take a look at the codes which are particularly important for the implementation of solar power for your home.
New Mexico State-Level Solar Rights and Electrical Codes
These are the state codes of which homeowners should be aware. These codes include specifications about the size and weight of the solar array added to your rooftop when a structural analysis is needed. An engineer needs to survey your roof if:
- The total added dead load of the array is greater than five lbs. / sq. ft. on roof construction.
- The total added point load of the array is greater than 45 lbs. on roof construction.
- The total added dead load exceeds 200 lbs. on any one truss, rafter, or roof joist.
- The mounting of the system is of a unique roof mounted design.
- The roof structure contains over-spanned trusses, rafters, or roof joists.
See NMAC 126.96.36.199 for more information. These codes ensure that your roof is able to withstand the solar panels’ weight. It is also worth noting that roof-mounted panels and ground-mounted panels are handled by two different divisions. Additionally, the New Mexico state government laid out solar rights to which New Mexicans interested in solar are entitled. One of the chief rights that are given to New Mexicans is the right to solar access, sometimes called a “solar easement law.” These solar easements prohibit your neighbors from building additions or planting trees that will shade your solar installation. New Mexicans are also guaranteed the right to never be legally prohibited from adding solar if their house meets all the requirements. Cities and HOAs are not allowed to stop homes from adding solar.
Bernalillo County Building Codes
New Mexico building codes are designed to keep buildings safe and eliminate hazards to their occupants. Therefore, exits, roof stability and fire escapes are all important parts of the New Mexico codes. One of the most important parts of the codes, when it comes to solar, is that additions and renovations can still be made to buildings that are not currently up to code if the building was up to code when it was built. So, if a building was built in 1991 and was up to code then, but is not up to code now, you can still make additions to that building — assuming that your additions do not cause the building to no longer be up to code. This is particularly relevant to homeowners who live in older houses. These houses may not necessarily always be up to the modern code, but this provision allows you to add a solar installation to your home anyways — as long as it doesn’t impact the safety of those who live there. For more information, see sections 102.2-102.4 of the Bernalillo County building codes.
Albuquerque City Solar Rights and Codes
Finally, the city of Albuquerque itself has some guidelines and codes for solar installations. Solar is particularly relevant for Albuquerque residents, as the city has the third-highest solar per capita in all of America. Albuquerque provides a helpful checklist for rooftop solar installations. This checklist covers all the documentation necessary to receive a permit to install solar panels on your roof. Many, if not all of these, will be handled by your solar installer. Some of these requirements include:
- Providing dimensions for your solar equipment.
- Information about your roof’s materials and plans to weatherproof it once the panels are installed.
- Electrical information like your equipment’s diagrams and where you plan to connect it to the electrical grid.
- Information requested by the fire department, such as the placement of the panels, their disconnect points, and related information.
This information helps the city of Albuquerque know whether your solar panels will meet necessary safety standards — not just building safety standards like for your roof, but also the safety standards for potential fires and the like. This makes sure that first responders are safe in the event of an emergency at your home.
The city also has some solar rights laws that were made separately from the state-level solar rights. In particular, Albuquerque has solar rights laws that complement the state-level solar rights laws. You can apply for a solar easement for your property, which guarantees access to the sun during certain times of the day, depending on the time of year.
Summary: Knowing Solar Rights is as Important as Knowing Electrical Codes
New Mexico has a somewhat complex array of solar codes, rights and laws. Many of these codes really only need to be known by your installer, as they’re the ones that will be doing most of the paperwork necessary. A good installer will be able to explain some of these to you, along with answering other questions about solar that you may have.
While it never hurts to have a grasp on the relevant codes and laws, the most important parts for the average solar homeowner are your solar rights. Your solar rights will help you in getting the most value out of your solar panels.
More and more New Mexicans are going solar to beat the heat. Don’t let arcane and technical legal codes drag you down. Take a look at the steps necessary to go solar in New Mexico, and if you feel that you are ready, contact Go Solar Group. Our team of specialists can get you a customized solar quote for your home, free of charge, and show you how much you can save with solar energy.