Enphase Energy, Inc. has released a detailed report that raises questions about the fire safety standards for Australian solar energy systems, including the use of a safety device that has become “a common cause for solar system fires”.Global energy technology company:
The Enphase report, A Comparison of Australian and US Residential Solar Markets, identifies that Australian solar energy systems cost about half the price of those in the US but asks if they are as safe. “Australia makes it easier for homeowners to install rooftop solar… but at what cost?” asks the report.
The detailed report observes that while US incentives for installing solar systems may be similar to those in Australia, they are far less lucrative. “In fact, residential solar systems are roughly 50 per cent cheaper to install in Australia than in the US,” it states.
“While the US and Australia have some common ground across incentives and rebates ... the two countries manage solar system safety very differently. In the US, requirements for solar safety have been added into state and municipal electrical, building, and fire codes, as well as permitting and inspection processes. All electrical contractors must follow National Electric Code (NEC) guidelines, which are updated every three years and adopted by most states. Within these guidelines are some strict requirements on weatherproofing enclosures, rapid shutdown in the case of a grid outage, wiring, and much more.”
Rapid shutdown - a standard feature of all Enphase microinverters - is an important mechanism for utility worker and homeowner safety because it automatically lowers voltage and de-energises solar modules in the event of an outage or fire. This significantly reduces the risk of electrical shock to firefighters and first responders when addressing solar-related fire events.
The Enphase report notes that Australia has struggled with a rash of solar-related fires during the past decade. “According to the Fire Investigation and Research Unit superintendent of Fire and Rescue NSW, solar-related fires in that state have increased five-fold over the last five years,” it says.
“To address this issue, the Australian Standard AS/NZS 5033 mandated the use of (rooftop) DC isolators for solar systems with string inverters in 2012. A DC isolator is a switch that is intended as a safety mechanism to disable dangerous high voltage Direct Current (DC) between the solar array and inverter. But DC isolators can easily degrade and malfunction, so they have now become a common cause for solar system fires,” it warns.
“In NSW alone, there is a 20 per cent increase in fires related to solar panels since last year, with more than 50 per cent caused by DC isolators. Since they’re connected to high-voltage systems, DC isolators also pose an electrocution risk for maintenance or emergency personnel ... Australia is currently the only country that requires DC isolators, but this is currently under reconsideration due to safety concerns. In addition, five common brands of DC isolators have been recalled.
"Lagging safety regulations still allow the use of high-voltage DC systems, which are responsible for two solar-related fires each week.
“Despite the lack of better safety standards, homeowners still have a choice to ensure that solar is safe and reliable. Enphase’s microinverters all come standard with rapid shutdown and they avoid high voltage DC by running low voltage Alternating Current (AC), the same current used by our home appliances, from the roof down to the circuit panel box.”
“You can’t put a price on safety for your home and family.”
Click here to read the Enphase blog A Comparison of Australian and U.S. Residential Solar Markets.
Interview opportunity: Enphase Energy APAC General Manager Wilf Johnston
Media contact: John Harris at Impress Media Australia: Phone +61 8 8431 4000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Enphase Energy, Inc.
Enphase Energy, a global energy technology company, delivers smart, easy-to-use solutions that manage solar generation, storage and communication on one intelligent platform. The Company revolutionized the solar industry with its microinverter technology and produces a fully integrated solar-plus-storage solution. Enphase has shipped more than 28 million microinverters, and over 1.2 million Enphase systems have been deployed in more than 130 countries. For more information, visit www.enphase.com/au and follow the company on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
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