Solar from a firefighter’s perspective

Solar from a firefighter’s perspective

Not only constitute the solar panels themselves a hazard for causing fires, even if any fire breaks out in your solar house firefighters won’t be able to go full ahead to put it out…

Research commissioned by the DCLG and carried out by BRE on fire safety and solar electric/photovoltaic systems, identifies the major obstacle facing firefighters: “In contrast to the power used by conventional mains electrical equipment, the power that PV systems generate is DC (direct current) and parts of the system cannot be switched off. DC installations have a continuous current, making them more hazardous (volt for volt) than normal AC (alternating current) electrical installations.”

The issue is that a household’s AC supply can easily be shut off by firefighters, however, the DC current supplied by the solar panels will also be generating as long as the sun is out.

How a firefighter approaches a house fire in a property with solar installed

According to Kent Fire and Rescue Services

Conduct a risk assessment to identify if any solar thermal (ST) of photovoltaic panels (PV) were or likely to be affected by fire
Identify the system fitted (we would treat as PV if not clear)
Isolate the main consumer unit
Identify the location of inverter and isolation switches and isolate
Inform personnel about the existence of the system in place and highlight the hazards present (electrical and risk of collapse)
Any fires within the inverters would be extinguished with a dry powder extinguishing agent
Additional control measures would be applied when appropriate:

Ladder contact with PV systems would be avoided
A safety officer would monitor for signs of collapse
A cordon would be established below panel arrays
Avoid application of firefighting water directly on to the PV array
Electrical rated gloves would be used for any contact with components of PV arrays and wiring
Consider covering the PV panels to reduce the generation of DC power
Seek specialist advice where necessary

More scary stuff at Source

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