Sections 14.1-14.2 cover two separate exemptions for ground-mounted solar panel arrays. Before you begin your project, there are several things you need to consider.
There are two separate exemptions for solar panel arrays. You will need to check if a professional is required according to the descriptions.
- Ground-mounted solar panel arrays outside rural zones up to 20 square metres in size or in rural zones with no size limitation
- Ground-mounted solar panel arrays exceeding 20, but not exceeding 40, square metres in size outside rural zones. Ground-mounted solar panel arrays up to 40 square metres in size can be built when the design is carried out or reviewed by a Chartered Professional Engineer.
Before you begin your project, you need to consider the following:
Always check with your local council to make sure your proposed building work does not have any district planning implications taking consideration of maximum site coverage, yard or setback requirements, daylight access planes or permitted activities. A resource consent may be required and it is important that this is obtained before starting any building work.
It is important to make sure all ground-mounted solar panel arrays comply with the relevant electrical regulations and standards.
Further to local council regulations, if an owner wants to connect the solar panel arrays to the power grid they must comply with local line companies. Your local council will look at certain installation and electrical safety requirements, as solar power systems might overload the power grid and the relevant authorities make sure this does not occur.
The typical weight of solar panel arrays is assumed to be less than 30 kilograms/square metre (approximately 15-20 kilograms/square metre). The solar panel arrays are comprised of individual panels with different length, width, and thickness.
The design wind speed at the location for the solar panel must not exceed 44 metres per second or alternatively, the wind zone must not exceed the "high" wind zone per the Building Code provisions. An owner can find all the information about the design wind speeds or wind zones in NZS 3604 and AS/NZS 1170.2 which are both referenced in B1/VM1 or B1/AS1. Most councils also have generic wind zone information for their jurisdictions.
To qualify for this exemption, the ground-mounted solar panel arrays are required to be supported by multiple connections on multiple posts or columns. Single post or column construction is considered to put adjacent property and people at a higher risk of harm in the event of failure.
This exemption allows solar panel arrays to be located as close as 5 metres from a residential building (dwelling). However, when determining the position of the panels, consideration needs to be given to:
- ensuring there is a reasonable separation distance if the residential building (or solar panel arrays) experiences structural instability, such as during an earthquake, strong wind, or fire
- ensuring that escape routes from an existing residential building are not compromised.