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<br />Photovoltaic Installations in High <br />Risk Flood Zones <br />With most families looking for ways to make ends meet in these <br />hard economic times, many are turning to Photovoltaic (PV) sys- <br />tems to help reduce soaring household utility expenses. This grow- <br />ing popularity has taken root in Hawaii and more and more property <br />owners are installing these systems to their existing homes. <br />It is important to understand that for on-roof installation of these PV <br />panels, the cost of the system must be included in “Substantial Im- <br />provement (SI) calculations” for structures located in a high risk <br />flood zone. Also known as the “50% Rule”, this often overlooked floodplain management regulation requires the <br />evaluation of the improvement cost against the market value of the structure. If the improvement cost exceeds <br />50% or more of the structure’s market value (excluding land value), then it is considered a “Substantial Improve- <br />ment” and thus the entire structure must comply with current county floodplain management regulations. <br />In an effort to avoid triggering the Substantial Improvement designation and the subsequent requirement to bring <br />an existing building into compliance with current codes, property owners may opt to install the PV panels as a <br />separate free-standing system. <br />The following policy guidance on free-standing solar/photovoltaic panels was provided by Jennifer Tylander, Pro- <br />gram Specialist, FEMA Mitigation Directorate, Washington D.C. : <br />“If free standing solar/photovoltaic panels (outside the footprint of a structure) are proposed in the floodplain, it is <br />considered development. Since free standing solar/photovoltaic panels are considered development, permits are <br />required [60.3(a)(1) ]*. In addition, local officials are to review proposed development to assure all necessary per- <br />mits have been received from those governmental agencies from which approval is required by Federal or State <br />law [60.3(a)(2)]*. In addition, the local offi- <br />cial is to determine whether the proposed de- <br />velopment is reasonably safe from flooding. <br />If the free-standing solar/photovoltaic panels <br />are in a flood-prone area, the proposal for <br />free standing solar/photovoltaic panels should <br />be reviewed to assure that all such proposals <br />are consistent with the need to minimize flood <br />damage. [60.3(a)(4)]*. Ways to minimize <br />food damage to free-standing solar/ <br />photovoltaic panels include, but are not lim- <br />ited to, being adequately anchored to prevent <br />flotation or collapse, constructed with flood <br />resistant materials below the Base Flood Ele- <br />vation, and be designed or located such that <br />floodwater is prevented from entering or ac- <br />cumulating in the components that are not <br />flood resistant during flooding events.” <br />If your existing home is located in a high risk flood zone, be sure to discuss your proposed plans to install a solar/ <br />photovoltaic system with your local floodplain managers. Each county has floodplain management regulations <br />that may have more stringent than the minimum NFIP regulations. Contact information for local floodplain manag- <br />ers can be found at: <br />* Title 44, Code of Federal Regulations <br />7 <br />