NEC Rules on Alternative Energy Systems — Part 2

Mike Holt, electrical trainer and code expert, goes over the 2011 NEC's revisions to fuel cell and wind installation codes in EC&M. Unlike solar and wind systems, fuel cells run on fossil fuel, even though they reduce fossil fuel usage in total. However, that is changing — as biomass-based fuel cells are being developed. Another way they differ from solar and wind systems is they don’t rely on the weather. This reliability factor is extremely attractive. While one goal with solar and wind is to make them as reliable as the existing U.S. power grid, an advantage claimed by fuel cells is they can readily be made more reliable than the grid.

Wind energy is increasingly popular — from the large-scale wind farms that utilities run to the small-scale units that reduce the electric bill of small buildings such as residences. Due to the unreliability of wind, small-scale wind systems are typically not the sole or primary source of electricity for a given facility. They usually supplement power provided by the utility grid, but are increasingly used with other systems. For example, when it’s storming outside, the sun isn’t shining to power that solar array. But the wind is most likely blowing....