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National Electrical Code Articles and Information

Based on the 2020 NEC

by Mark Lamendola

National Electrical Code Tips: Article 690 -- Solar Photovoltaic Systems, Part 2

Part II of Article 690 provides the circuit requirements for PV systems. These are not the same thing as the wiring methods and materials (covered in Part IV)

  1. With the 2020 NEC, much of 600.7 was completely rewritten. So when determining the maximum voltage of PV system dc circuits, read carefully. This value is critical, because you must use it for all sorts of things such as conductors, equipment, and working space.
  2. The maximum current calculation has not appreciably changed from the 2017 NEC. It's still somewhat complicated, because the method you must use depends upon the characteristics of your system. For example, if your PV system has an inverter capable of under 100KW then the maximum current is the sum of the short-circuit current ratings of the PV modules connected in parallel multiplied by 125%. But if the inverter is capable of 100KW or more, then you can use a different method but to do so you must have a documented and stamped (by a licensed PE) PV system design [690.8(A)(1) and (2)].
  3. If a circuit is protected by an OCPD not exceeding the conductor ampacity, you can make the maximum current value equal to the rated input current of the electronic power converter input to which it is connected [690.8(B)].
  4. You'll find two other type of maximum current calcuations, in 690.8(C) and 690.8(D). These are "Systems with Multiple Direct-Current Voltages" and "Sizing of Module Interconnection Modules", respectively.
  5. The overcurrent protection rules are in 690.9. The first rule is this: PV system dc circuit and inverter output conductors and equipment must be protected against overcurrent.


  6. You may have circuits where overcurrent protection is not required, for example where the conductor ampacity is sufficient for the maximum current [690.9(A)(1)]. And/or you may have circuits were overcurrent protection is required only at one end [690.9(A)(2)]. There are also "other circuits", which are those that don't comply with either of the preceding requirements. Those must be protected by one of the methods listed in 690.9(A)(3).
  7. Any OCPD you use in a PV system must be listed for use in PV systems [690.9(B)].
  8. If the PV system is a stand-alone system, install it per the requirementes of 710.15 [690.10]. Article 710 provides the requirements for stand-alone systems.
  9. Arc fault protection is required for any PV system with PV circuits operating at 80 VDC or greater (between any two conductors_ [690.11].
  10. Any PV system installed in or on a building must have a rapid shutdown function [690.12]. The reason for it is to protect firefighters. The requirements for this are fairly detailed.

How the NEC is arranged

  1. The first four Chapters of the NEC apply to all installations.
  2. Article 90 precedes Chapter One, and establishes the authority of the NEC.
  3. Article 80 follows the body of the NEC; it exists as Annex H. It provides the requirements for administration.
  4. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 are the "special" chapters, covering special: occupancies, equipment, and conditions (in that order).
  5. Chapter 8 provides the requirements for communications systems.
  6. Chapter 9 provides tables.
  7. The appendices provide mostly reference information.
  8. Appendix D contains examples that every NEC user should study.

Try your NEC moxy:

  • Do you know the difference between bonding and grounding? Hint: Look in the NEC, Article 100.
  • Does the NEC refer to grounding incorrectly in any of its articles? Yes! So be careful to apply the Article 100 definitions. Don't ground where you should bond.
  • When doing motor load calculations, which Article covers hermetic motors? Answer: While Article 440 covers the application of hermetic motors, it does so only by amending Article 430 because hermetic motors are a special case of motors. For motor load calculations, refer to Article 430.
  • Does the NEC provide a voltage drop requirement? Yes! It does so in a special case, which is Article 648 Sensitive Electronic Equipment. But for general applications, it does not provide a requirement; it merely provides a recommendation in a couple of FPNs.
  • Take our Code Quizzes.

Remember other applicable codes, rules, standards, and references:

  • OSHA's electrical worker safety rules.
  • IEEE standards.
  • NETA standards.
  • NFPA standards.
  • International Codes (if applicable to the installation).
  • State Codes (if the state has them).
  • Local ordinances and permit requirements.
  • Local fire codes.
  • Manufacturer requirements or guidelines.
  • Customer security requirements.
  • Industry standards.
  • Your company's own internal standards, practices, and procedures.
  • Engineering drawing notes.



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