Solar Safety ShutOFF – Solution to an identified workplace health and safety issue
Safework NSW awarded Remote Solar Isolator a finalist in the 2016 Safework Awards
for best solution to an identified workplace health and safety issue.
By Liz Nelson.
When it comes to a house fire, the men in yellow arrive to battle the blaze as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Able to attack the fire from any angle, these individuals put themselves on the line to win this fight. What if the home had rooftop solar panels installed? The firefighter has no choice but to alter his mindset on how to approach the disaster. The same tactics cannot be used because of fear of electrocution.
When a fire begins to consume solar panels, wires become exposed. These wires could have hundreds of volts and thousands of watts travelling through them even while the fire is in the process of destroying the array. This creates a bad situation for firefighters for the panels cannot be shut off in order to combat the blaze. As water is a superconductor of electricity, one wrong spray with the hose could be fatal. What are these heroes supposed to do in this kind of a situation?
The Solution to Rooftop Solar Panel Fires
Due to the dangers that solar panels promote to firefighters, Remote Solar Isolators have been designed in Australia to help secure the safety of those involved. These RSI devices reduce energy levels produced by solar arrays to safe and manageable levels removing the fear of physical injury from electrocution.
How They Work – The RSI connects to the solar power in order to adjust the flow of power. When the unit is plugged into the power grid, the solar panels are live at full capacity. Unplugging the unit causes it to switch the panels to a protective state reducing or even eliminating the amount of power they are producing. This could be done from a breaker or remotely from a power station. Once the RSI has disabled the maximum power the panels can produce, firefighters will have a safer and easier time combating the blaze.
The Need for Global Marketing – Awarded the most Innovative Product of the Year for 2012 by the Master Electricians of Australia, the Remote Solar Isolator can help save lives as well as property damage. As these units have been proven to be effective, why haven’t they been distributed globally? All too often solar panel fires make headlines but not much is mentioned about such a device preventing the damage in the first place. Could this simply be because sceptics of photovoltaic technology are more concerned with tragedy than prevention?
Other Benefits of the RSI
Cleaning the Array
The RSI unit doesn’t merely have to be isolated to allowing firefighters to do their job. They can be utilized to allow virtually anyone the capability of safely cleaning their panels without fear of being injured. Once the power is deactivated, the homeowner can feel safe knowing that there is no chance of being electrocuted while cleaning the panels.
Repairing Solar Panels
Replacing faulty panels could be a hazardous task to do without the benefit of a Remote Solar Isolator. Although a single panel could be faulty, the other panels surrounding it are producing thousands of watts worth of power. Deactivating the panels simultaneously with the RSI unit can allow repairs to be completed without worry.
Power Line Repairs
Local repairs to grid lines could also be hazardous to workers should a live solar array be functional and feeding power back into the system. For instance, downed power lines can be shut off at the power station directly. However, a solar array could still be feeding a great deal of power into that system creating a live line. With the RSI device, the panels are deactivated once power is no longer detected on the grid. This will save power company employees a great deal of trouble from having to locate and shut down the solar system in the neighborhood that is still providing power.
Solar panels are being utilized globally for homes and businesses alike. If anything should happen to these facilities, a lot of trouble can be eliminated. The Remote Solar Isolator can help prevent many accidents from happening during an emergency, and should be considered when anyone is installing a photovoltaic system regardless of their place in the world. Protect your solar assets and prevent them from becoming a liability.
This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: email@example.com.
Rooftop solar panels pose a huge risk fire fighters trying to put out burning buildings and rescue those who may be trapped inside. This is due to solar panels producing a live electrical current that cannot simply be turned off. Conventional d.c. isolation system installed on rooftop solar panels fails to provide complete and safe isolation. So in times of emergencies, fire fighters may need to reassess tactics. This can often waste valuable fire fighting time. Damage to the array may result in the creation of new and unexpected circuit paths.
However if installed, a Solar Safety ShutOFF (RSIA2) tackles the problem of d.c. isolation at the source, (i.e. before the panels combine to lethal d.c voltages). This allows fire fighters to do what they do best and not be concerned with lethal d.c voltages. The RSIA2 can switch off when a predetermined temperature has been reached (if heat is detected from a fire the entire system will safely shut down).
The Solar Safety ShutOFF provides:
- Ability to switch off both locally and remotely.
- Safety of a Defined isolating air gap between combining panels (Safest Isolation)
- Ability to clearly indicate safe solar panel isolation via existing inverter.
- Ability to switch off when a predetermined temperature has been reached (if heat is detected from a fire the entire system will safely shut down).
- Ability to shut down solar generation independent from the solar panels.
- Never places the operator at risk of electrocution from a damaged solar array
- Simply Retrofitted to any new or existing system.
- Cost effective and safe.
“What was once a beautiful family home was reduced to ash this week – and it’s possible it could have been prevented.”
With the number of dc isolator recalls and resulting in an increase of solar panel system fires, there is no better time to install a Solar Safety ShutOFF with Arc detection. It covers all aspects of solar panel safety during an emergency, maintenance or when access to the roof is required.
If a Solar Safety ShutOFF with a combined Arc Detection unit is installed on solar installations there would be a continuous monitoring for even the smallest series arc. During a fire, first responders can flick a switch at the power box, or cut power to the building and the Solar Safety ShutOFF isolates panels leaving no lethal voltage or arcing throughout the panels, dc isolator, connectors or any associated wiring. An automated alarm would also sound at the switchboard alerting the owner of an issue with the solar array.
Read the article by Liana Turner posted in http://www.mydailynews.com.au/
The Quirindi Advocate, Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Manuka Chaff, on the Kamilaroi Highway at Quirindi through their solar supplier Sunup Solar is the first in the region to install the Remote Solar Isolator solar safety system on their new 25kw, 95 panel solar PV system.
The Remote Solar Isolator is an award winning, Australian designed and manufactured solar safety system, which addresses the safety concerns of all solar PV installations. Until now, the major problem of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems is that there has been no safe way to isolate rooftop panels and stop the generation of lethal direct current (dc.) Voltages.
When installed the Remote Solar Isolator limits any lethal solar d.c. Voltage to the safety of Extra Low Voltage as per Australian Standard 3000/2007. This allows for safe access to the roof of any building fitted with solar panels for all home owners, emergency service personnel and tradespeople.
The Remote Solar Isolator can be turned on/off manually at the switchboard or as remote as the local substation and will automatically turn off it if detects a fire.
The system is so advanced it addresses the latest Maintenance and Safety requirements of Australian Solar Standards DR5033.
Manuka Chaff wanted to ensure that their assets and their people were fully protected. The Remote Solar Isolator can be fitted to any new or existing solar PV system.
For further information please contact Amy Baker at SunUp Solar 1300 433 126 or visit www.remotesolarisolator.com
With the number of solar installations in Australia, reaching a million and with recent fires involving solar panels, questions are being asked: what are the safety implications to home owners, electrical workers and emergency personnel of these installations? What can be done to make them safer?
Until now, the major problem of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems is that there has been no safe way to isolate rooftop panels and reduce the generation of potentially lethal direct current (DC) voltages. Even by using a recommended shutdown procedure or the DC/PV isolators that are installed on every solar PV installation, lethal DC voltages are still generated throughout the panels and their associated wiring.
The Solar Safety ShutOFF™ was developed in order to combat this issue, which is a recognised safety concern of emergency services and solar regulatory authorities around the world. Solar Safety ShutOFF™ is an Australian-owned, designed and manufactured product, which allows for safe access to any building fitted with solar panels. Solar Safety ShutOFF limits any lethal solar voltage to the safety of Extra Low Voltage as per Australian Standard 3000/2007 and has also successfully completed compliance testing for AS3100.
When a Solar Safety ShutOFF™ is fitted to a home or business, anyone may safely reduce the generation of electricity by the solar panels, simply by flicking a switch at the meter board or in an emergency, by remotely disconnecting power at the nearest substation. This then provides a SAFE environment for all home owners, emergency personnel and tradespeople to access the solar PV system. In the case of flood, fire or cyclone, the Remote Solar Isolator™ ensures street power is isolated and that there is no chance of solar panels generating lethal voltages and back feeding into the electricity grid. The Remote Solar Isolator™ ensures safe roof access without the risk of fire or an electric shock from solar panels.
A thought on solar safety
Solar Safety ShutOFF – The most technologically advanced protection system involving solar generation.
Remember the days before the safety switch became compulsory to install in new homes? At the time, we just relied on several standard circuit breakers in the fuse box to keep us safe. Provided we didn’t accidentally electrocute ourselves, it was a bullet we could easily dodge, and a price we didn’t have to pay. Or was it?
Before long, and after a string of tragic deaths, the safety switch became a mandatory safety device to prevent accidental electrocution. And it has since proven to be very successful in saving lives – I know, because it recently saved mine!
The reality is that no one plans to give themselves a potentially lethal electric shock when carrying out a home remedy on the extension cord, or on the outdoor light that ‘just’ needs a couple of wires connected to the mains. Even ‘just’ changing a light bulb has served up plenty of unsuspecting jolts over the years.
Nowadays, the decision to install a safety switch for the home fuse box has become a ‘no-brainer’. However, a new problem has recently emerged. Many homeowners are at risk to an additional lethal Voltage electrical power supply in their home – the solar array on their roof.
In fact, the average domestic solar installation can supply up to 600 volts d.c. That’s enough power to deliver a lethal electric shock. And since a solar array can never be turned off while the sun is shining, homeowners are at risk when they access the roof area. Think of all those homeowners who were rescued from their roofs during the recent Queensland floods.
Solar panels have also been reported to cause roof fires. More alarming is that in many cases the Fire Brigade have needed to implement extra precautions to extinguish roof fires where solar panels are installed – for fear they may receive a lethal electric shock – whether the panels were the cause of the fire or not.
And yet, many homeowners (and solar installers) still have not learnt their lesson of hindsight from the safety switch genesis…
“I’m careful, it won’t happen to me.”
“When do I need to get on the roof?”
“I won’t be affected by floods.”
“It’s not worth spending the money.”
“I can always call the Fire Brigade if there’s a fire on the roof.”
“My solar installer says it’s already safe.”
Already safe? The current method of switching off the d.c. isolator in an emergency does not shut down the ability of the solar panels to generate lethal Voltage. This only stops current flow to the inverter, and does nothing to ensure the safety on the roof.
Fortunately, there is now a safety switch for a solar array known as the Solar Safety ShutOFF (RSIA2) by Remote Solar Isolator™. When a RSIA2 is correctly fitted to a new or existing solar installation the homeowner can easily de-activate the array from combining its power and reduce it to the safety of Extra Low Voltage. This enables the homeowner to safely work near the array or the solar wiring from the roof. It also allows emergency personnel to gain safe access to your roof area.
For added control and safety, the RSIA2 can be remotely activated from the local power station by disconnecting the incoming a.c. mains to the home. This may be particularly useful during flood emergencies, since homeowners would not be placing themselves or emergency personnel at further risk by gaining access to the roof area to escape rising water.
The RSIA2 also comes fitted with a thermal detector in case of fire, which will stop the solar panels combining when a predetermined temperature is reached. This makes the roof area safe for fire fighters to focus on fighting the blaze, without fear of electrocution.
One thing becomes certain. Complacency around electrical safety levels is like a game of Russian roulette. It will only be a matter of time before a life is lost as a result of a solar array electrocution. Let us learn the lessons of the past to anticipate the pitfalls of the future, and eliminate those areas of risk we actually do have control over.
Like the safety switch for your home, the Remote Solar Isolator™ is a safety switch for your solar installation on your roof, and an inexpensive solution for those unexpected events.
Remote Solar Isolator won Innovative Product of the Year (2012) at the National Annual Excellence Awards held by the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) and Master Electricians Australia (MEA)
Underwriters Laboratories Inc issued a report dated November 29, 2011 titled “Firefighter Safety and Photovoltaic Installations Research Project” in which it was found that water on a damaged solar array is potentially unsafe within a 20 foot radius and up to 1000 feet if salt contaminated the water. This research also concluded that turning off an array is not as simple as opening a disconnect switch. As long as the array is illuminated parts of the array will always be energised, therefore generating lethal DC voltages. In the photo below when emergency services arrived the system was still producing and arcing 450 volts DC.
Dedicated to making solar safe, we have designed and engineered the Remote Solar Isolator, innovative and the most technologically advanced protection system involving solar generation. The Remote Solar Isolator provides the ability to remove all lethal d.c. voltages on any solar Photo-voltaic (PV) installation just by flicking a switch or disconnecting the incoming grid mains.This safety switch for solar panels removes the risk of electrocution on any solar installation while providing safe roof access for homeowners, emergency services and tradespeople, even when the sun is shining. The Remote Solar Isolator provides unrivaled protection to homes during fire, flood, maintenance or storm.
When a Remote Solar Isolator is fitted to your home, anyone may stop the generation of electricity of the solar panels simply by flicking a switch at the meter board or in an emergency, by remotely disconnecting power at the nearest substation. This then provides a SAFE environment for all emergency personnel, tradespeople and you to access the solar PV system and roof knowing that NO lethal voltages are being generated.
Remote Solar Isolator won Innovative Product of the Year (2012) at the National Annual Excellence Awards held by the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) and Master Electricians Australia (MEA)
- The Master Electrician Spring 2012: “Sparkies shine at National Excellence Awards Night (Pg 55-56)
- Underwriters Laboratories Inc – Report 2011: “Firefighter Safety and Photovoltaic Installations Research Project”
Accessing a roof with solar panels could place tradespeople, emergency services and homeowners at risk of electrocution because the generation of lethal DC voltage cannot be stopped, even after isolating the DC isolator at the switchboard and the PV isolator on the roof!
Underwriters Laboratories Inc* has found that a damaged solar array is capable of producing lethal unpredictable current paths that may include gutters, roofs, modules and flashings. Unfortunately it is impossible to visually assess if a solar array is damaged as the wiring, the underside of the panels and the junction boxes cannot be observed. The risk of electrocution then becomes real on every solar panel installation where the open circuit voltage exceeds 100VDC.
Until now, one of the major problems with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems is that there has been no safe way to isolate rooftop panels and stop the generation of potentially lethal Direct Current (DC) voltages. Even by using the latest recommended shutdown procedure or DC/PV isolators currently installed on every solar PV installation in Australia, lethal DC voltages are still generated throughout the panels and the associated wiring. If the system becomes damaged, unpredictable current paths can be created and include the roof, gutter, panels and the associated wiring. If the system becomes damaged, unpredictable current paths can be created and include the roof, gutter, panels, frames, conduit and flashing (meaning these can ALL become LIVE).
Solar panels are installed in strings to form arrays. Each panel generates power – the voltage accumulates to form a string. For a conventional 1.5kw system, 8 panels rated at 40 volts DC combine to produce a potentially lethal 320 v DC.
Remote Solar Isolator Pty Ltd has designed and manufactured the Solar Safety ShutOFF. This unique Australian designed and manufactured product makes safe any building fitted with solar panels. It is the only system capable of removing the presence of any lethal DC voltage, therefore allowing full and safe access to the roof and solar installation for emergency services and maintenance workers, even when the sun is shining. It may be activated at the meter box or away from the solar installation just by disconnecting the grid power to the local area. The Solar Safety ShutOFF is ideal for mitigating the safety concern for people exposed to solar systems impacted by floods, snow storms, bush fires and wind storms as it also removes the chance of inverter back feed.
Benefits of installing a Solar Safety ShutOFF are:
1.Ability to stop any lethal DC current generation
2.Ability to turn the system off in case of emergency.
3.Provide clear indication when safe access to the roof is available for maintenance work.
4.All operations may be performed remotely without accessing the roof.
5.Can automatically shut down entire system if fire is detected.