25% of Australian PV Installations Unsafe + 1000’s of PV systems damaged following Sydney hail catastrophe

The emergence and proliferation of solar technology is impacting and limiting traditional firefighting and emergency services operations.  This has been clearly identified this week following catastrophic hail storms which have left thousands of solar PV systems across NSW damaged.   Standard Operating Guidelines for isolating power at incidents involving Alternative Power Sources acknowledge that even after power has been isolated at an incident involving solar panels that there may still be an electrical hazard.  Currently there is a significant safety gap which has not been adequately addressed and it is placing fire and emergency services personnel and community safety at risk.

The risk has been further highlighted this week following The Australian newspaper report that the Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor has written to his state counterparts warning lives could be at risk from unsafe or sub-standard PV installations with a national audit report from the Clean Energy Regulator finding that up to 25% of all rooftop units inspected pose a severe or high risk.  If you extrapolate this figure against the 1.9 million residential installations across Australia, it equates to 475,000 rooftop PV systems that pose a severe or high risk!

Below is a link that outlines the report in more detail https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/taylor-solar-safety-mb0873/

www.solarquotes.com.au
Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor and The Australian have created a stir, indicating that a large number of rooftop solar installations across the country may be unsafe.

 

CURRENT PROCEDURES

Below is an extract from current fire and emergency services Standard Operational Guidelines (SOG 14.7).

Solar panels damaged by storms.
When working near solar panels damaged by storms:
– Assume the solar power system and surrounding area is live.
– Establish an Exclusion Zone at least 3 metres around any damaged solar panel components.  Increase the Exclusion Zone to 8 metres if the components are in contact with conductive materials.
– If there is broken glass, wear P2 dust mask and goggles.
– Turn off the solar power system – see Turning off an alternative power source *Note that the current SOG does not include a procedure for how to isolate the power at the source (the solar panels themselves) because up until recently, no practical isolation medium was available).
 CURRENT RISKS

The current NSW hail storm clean-up exposes a dilemma for fire and emergency services agencies;

– Engage in salvage and clean up operations which clearly contravenes the Standard Operational Guidelines of maintaining 3 metre and 8 metre exclusion zones.

– Do nothing, which is not an acceptable outcome for fire and emergency services agencies or the communities that they protect.

With similar storm activity due to hit Queensland this afternoon, QFES may soon find themselves in a similar predicament!

Climate change and Alternative Power Sources such as solar panels are the “new normal”.  Fire and emergency services agencies need to identify and adopt innovative new tools and procedures to protect their personnel and the communities that they protect.

PVStop has been specifically designed to isolate the power produced by solar panels in incidents such as fires, storms or floods.  It is a quantum leap in safety in incidents involving solar PV systems, providing fire and emergency services personnel with a safe system of work.

We look forward to assisting our fire and emergency services agencies to mitigate the risks they currently face with a simple solution to the clear and obvious problems.