The prospect of a structure; be it a residence or a place of business, catching fire is never easily dismissed. Of all destructive universal forces, fire takes a prominent place. Fires occur easily, but given unfortunate conditions, fires can be almost impossible to quench without loss.
The typical uncontained fire situation gives rise to panicked evacuation procedures, followed by attempts to douse it. In the case that remedial initiatives fail and the fire starts to grow, blaring sirens and trained firefighters are brought into the equation. The ensuing firefighting is no laughing matter and may cause financial losses, damages to property and potential losses of life in the course of extinguishing the fire. The scenario really isn’t lacking in its ominous nature.
Now imagine the firefighters arriving at the scene and being unable to put out the fire. Suddenly, the already terrifying sequence took a turn to the worse right?
Although we may imagine this to be an unlikely event, a team of firefighters in Burlington County were faced with an identical situation recently. When the call came in to report a fire in a large warehouse, the dispatched team were met with a big problem; solar panels.
Ventilation is a key aspect of structural firefighting and involves the expulsion of heat and smoke from a burning structure to permit firefighters to find and rescue victims and also to avoid smoke explosions and flashovers.
Customarily, the ventilation is facilitated by cutting open a hole in the roof, for this team of Burlington County firefighters this wasn’t a viable option. The 7,000 solar panels installed on the roof of the warehouse had much to do with this complication.
To add a little context - traditional photovoltaic (PV) systems possess high voltages and output 30-60V of directcurrent (DC). Naturally, when multiple modules are stringed together, these voltages run as high as a life-threatening 1,000 Vdc. The resulting implication is that installation crews, maintenance personnel, people working in the vicinity and in unfortunate situations – firefighters are exposed to harm by these installations.
The most obvious rebuttal to these concerns is typically – just use the kill switch!
The problem is that kill switches in traditional string inverters can only interrupt the current flow. Voltages continue to remain at high levels in traditional string inverters even when these shutdown functions are employed.
To elaborate this rather counter-intuitive restriction of traditional string inverters of typical solar panel installations – automatic DC breakers are located on the inverter itself and are unable to disconnect the Voltage at the point of isolated PV modules.
To add to the nightmare, this is only one part of the problem. As connectors and cables in a PV system degrade, electric currents begin to pass through the air, creating an electric arc. These arcs threaten any individuals in its radius with the high probability of being electrocuted.
SolarEdge is a globally reputed solar panel vendor whose units are deployed worldwide as a safe, innovative alternative energy solution. The technological advancements made by the company in recent years has placed it at the helm of the global renewable energy solutions industry.
The SolarEdge system consists of power optimizers connected to each isolated module and facilitates a module-level monitoring feature. SolarEdge further lays claim to Safe DC™, a built-in safety feature which eliminates safety risks during installation, maintenance and firefighting scenarios.
The SolarEdge PV system reduces the DC Voltage to a safe 1V per power optimizer when the AC power is shut down. Further safeguarding the practical safety of the units, the AC power can be shut down by employing multiple implementation methods such as - shutting down the AC breaker, turning off the inverter ON/OFF switch and turning off the AC/DC safety switch. Optionally, a Firefighter Gateway switch can also be installed to complete the safety features available when installing SolarEdge units.
Having recognized the value of introducing high quality PV systems to the rising local market, JLanka Technologies has partnered with SolarEdge to deploy PV units to Sri Lanka. Contact JLanka to find out how your home or business can eliminate mounting electricity bills by going green with the safest and most secure PV systems company in the country.