When it comes to evaluating the dangers of solar, fire safety is one of several key reasons why experience, proper training and attention to detail matter when it comes to quality solar installations.
We can point you to several solar system fires that have occurred on commercial solar systems. ALL of these fires were preventable. But an unfortunate set of factors came together to spark the fires. In general, all of these fires can be attributed to a combination of two or more of these three elements:
- Inadequate solar installation standards (NEC and others)
- Inexperienced solar designers and/or installers
- Severe pressure to cut costs
The solar industry has grown so fast that it has outpaced development of industry standards. Unfortunately, there are far too few standards all across the board (from National Electric Code issues and building code issues to development of standards for solar performance predictions, solar system reliability, and solar financial accounting).
This lack of standards means safety and quality are in the hands of the designers and installers of solar systems. Worse yet, it also means that potential customers have very few means with which to evaluate the veracity of competing claims from everyone peddling solar, and very little protection from incompetence.
Couple the above with the massive number of new solar companies entering the market with little or no depth of experience, and you have the recipe for problems.
Having been in the business of building solar systems since 1997, we foresaw a lot of these problems unfolding. These issues have been an ongoing topic of internal company discussion for us.
At Third Sun Solar we are passionate about solar energy, and solar PV is our sole line of business. So we take the long term health of the solar industry very seriously. Our president, Geoff Greenfield, sits on the NABCEP board of directors (NABCEP is one of the original bodies working to develop industry standards and best practices for solar) and we have engaged wherever we can in supporting solar industry best practices. We have long partnerships with some of the solar industry’s most experienced veterans and we are constantly striving to learn from everyone’s mistakes and improve our game.
We have given local fire departments solar-specific training on actual solar installations and we have been following development of solar fire code issues in CA since they got started. We’ll continue to do so.
Eventually, the standards will be put in place to alleviate these concerns, but that is yet several years away. Meanwhile, we are confident that our attention to detail, strict refusal to cut corners, and our devotion to safety and quality have always and will continue to bridge the gap between where the industry is today and where it needs to be in terms of solar safety, reliability and quality. The simple fact is, a well-designed, well-constructed solar power system poses no more risk of fire than any other commercial building component. Know your solar installer. Hire an experienced solar company and get good advice when installing solar.