AUGUSTA – Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, testified against a proposal that would make the installation of solar racking systems more dangerous to Maine workers and consumers at a public hearing before the Electricians’ Examining Board on Friday.
“As we move toward our goal of energy independence and embrace new renewable opportunities, we must do it in a way that is safe and works for Maine people. The proposed rule change is nothing more than an unsafe workaround to existing Maine laws so companies can cut costs and grow their bottom lines,” said President Jackson. “Installing these complicated systems requires electrical training. A misplaced bolt or washer could damage the system and seriously injure workers. I urge the Electricians’ Examining Board to reject this irresponsible rule change.”
The proposed rule change would redefine “photovoltaic racking system” to exclude the racking and mounting the system from being considered part of the electrical installation. A photovoltaic racking system is a fixture that conducts electricity through conduits or raceways. This change would allow individuals without the proper electrical training, to install these systems, risking the health and safety of workers and consumers.
“As Mainers, we’ve watched our jobs get outsourced to other states and other countries over and over again. Every time we’ve given an inch, they’ve turned around and taken a mile. With this rule change, corporate interests are once again trying to take an inch on the backs of working people and the safety of Mainers,” said Kimberly Lawson-Tinsman, an electrician from Monroe with IBEW 1253. “Certified Maine electricians have the training to set up these electrical systems properly. We live in this state and invest our wages in Maine communities and businesses. To pass us over in favor of untrained workers is both unfair and dangerous.”
According to the University of Calgary, an “important feature of racking systems is to electrically bond and ground the solar array to prevent electrocution.” In a publication on best practices, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory recommends that licensed and certified individuals should oversee the installation of solar arrays.
The term “photovoltaic racking system” is already clearly defined in Maine law. Electrical installations include the “complete installations related to photovoltaic, fuel cell and wind power generation systems.” Installation includes “electrical conductors, fittings, devices and fixtures’” as well as “conduit and raceway systems.” Rule changes do not supersede statute.
The deadline to provide comments on the proposed rule is 5 p.m. Dec. 30. Members of the public interested in submitting comments should email the Board Administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to 35 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333, Attn: Catherine M. Carroll.