Fire on a solar PV system

PV Fire Safety

Solar Panel Fires


Since their boom in popularity in the last decade, PV solar panels have been recorded to cause a number of fires. As technology has advanced, and awareness to the potential fire risk of PV has increased, these incidences have become extremely unlikely. However, without proper maintenance, they can still happen…

Insurers here in the UK will increasingly require evidence that your solar system is being maintained in order to retain cover.

If good quality components are correctly installed, solar panels offer a very low risk of fire. They are built to be fire resistant, and thus so long as they are maintained in a non-faulty state, they shouldn’t happen at all.
That being said, often PV sites are not installed with due diligence, or are not sufficiently maintained, which leads to headlines such as these:

Family’s £400k home wrecked by fire caused by faulty solar panelsThe Mirror
Solar-related fire causes evacuation at Sainsbury’s in LongbridgeSolar Power Portal

A shocking statistic in an article by the SFPE estimates ‘ in Italy alone over 700 fires involving PV systems occurred in 2012.’ This figure is a worrying one no matter the scale or location of your solar PV system. However, so long as your system is properly installed and maintained, fire risk is negligible.

The SFPE go on to explain that the main source of these fires was predicted to be flammable roof insulation igniting due to DC arcing, and it further states that the main reasons for this happening were:

‘incorrect management of shading, the exposure of plant components to substandard conditions (heavy water condensation under the panels), low quality components, crushing of cables during the installation, under-evaluation of typical DC current behaviour, and mismatch of PV cells.’

As you can see – all of these common causes are problems relating to the installation and maintenance of panels, and all of these problems could have been avoided by correct maintenance procedures.

Solar panels themselves pose little to no risk of fire if procedures are followed correctly, and the SFPE explains that in the mentioned case study, since ‘the first relevant fires occurred… most PV panels producers started to include fire resistance requirements in the installation procedures.

Possibly as a result of this fire resistant PV panel technology, alongside a more vigilant risk assessment procedure in the UK, the solar power portal explain (here) that in the UK in 2015,

‘the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) charged with solar PV fire investigation… reports that over the last two years it has only been notified of eight incidents involving solar modules which concerned fire and rescue services’

Clearly, eight incidences in the UK between 2013 and 2015 is significantly less concerning than the estimated 700 in Italy in 2012.

That being said, eight incidences recorded between 2013 and 2015 is not 0, and through poor or non-existent maintenance you are increasing the likelihood drastically, that is why…

‘It is important that such (PV) systems are correctly designed, competently installed and regularly maintained by companies certified by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS)’Solar Power Portal

Here at Solar South West we have seen the evidence ourselves of what failing to monitor and maintain your PV panels can do. The image below is of a component we found victim to DC arcing.

And this picture (below) is taken of a panel we were contracted to optimise. It had been left with a microcrack in its surface leading to a build up of electricity in one area known as a hot-spot…

Find out how we conduct remote pv monitoring to see exactly how we monitor PV and discover faults such as one.

The electricity build up had begun to burn holes through the PV panel, and this is the exact type of fault which could, if left, quite easily lead to a fire. It is for this reason the we stress the importance of maintaining your PV array.

Solar South West offer bespoke Optimisation & Maintenance services tailored to each system’s requirements. We are certified by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) as advised by Solar Power Portal, and have built up our technical expertise throughout contracts installing, designing, consulting and maintaining sites ranging from domestic properties to 150 acre ground mount systems. The service usually pays for itself through the increased yield of your system after optimisation, and you will virtually eliminate any risk of fire or any other potential damage to your investment in solar energy … and keep your insurance company happy!

For more information on the O&M services we offer, see our dedicated web page by following the link below. Alternatively, find us on Facebook or Twitter.

Click Here To View Our O&M Services

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