Setbacks are meant for safety and accessibility for firemen to do their work. It refers to the distance from the edge of the roofline to the side of the nearest solar panel.
It's good practice to have a setback on roofs where firemen could have to operate in case of emergency, but what about the roofs where firemen won't ever walk on?
The State of Virginia made it clear that a 3-ft setback is not required.
MDV-SEIA was informed of a fire code setback issue in Arlington and responded quickly with the letter we previously secured from the Department of Housing and Community Development, and the matter has been resolved. Arlington County Building Enforcement will not enforce the 2012 Fire Code clause dictating solar PV systems incorporate a 3’ barrier or ‘setback’ on all sides of the solar array to allow fire fighters to access the roof in case of a fire.
We’d also like to thank Chris Somers and Joan Kelsch of Arlington County and Aaron Sutch from VA SUN for their support in balancing safety concerns and the rights of residents to go solar as we worked to resolve this matter.