Solar systems with high-voltage direct current flowing from the switchboard to the inverter must be closely monitored for arc faults, which pose a significant fire hazard. Even the smallest device failure, such as a damaged cable or loose electrical connection, can cause an arc fault. Once an arc fault is triggered, it can be difficult to stop because the voltage in DC systems is constant and you must be able to break the circuit or the arc will continue.
A DC arc fault usually occurs in a faulty DC isolator, a switch used in solar systems to allow firefighters to shut down a system in the event of a fire. This switch isolates the electricity generated by the solar panels.
Standard solar systems that use a central inverter do not have a quick shutdown function like an AC system, and ironically, it is often the safety switch itself that causes the fire.
DC Solar is in the spotlight
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday highlighted growing concerns about solar panel fires. It's great that DC solar systems are finally in the spotlight, especially on the cheaper end of the solar market.
Unfortunately, the article only made a small suggestion to make DC isolators optional:
“Industry experts have advocated that the isolator change is voluntary. The clean energy regulator says this is only mandatory in Australia.
“But Superintendent Kingsland said if isolation switches were removed, alternative protective measures would be needed to protect firefighters and other first responders from the risk of electric shock.
“Whatever the solution, something has to be done,” he said.
There is already a safe solar solution that has been around for years!
Indeed, there has been a solution to this serious problem for years and almost all of our customers have chosen Safer Solar since 2014.
The risks of DC solar systems have been known since the beginning of the solar industry over 10 years ago. Since DC arcs only occur above 80 volts, DC arcs do not occur in solar systems that use microinverters, as well as in some systems that use DC optimizers, which automatically reduce the DC voltage to safer values in the event of a fault.
Micro-inverter systems avoid the risk of DC arcing by converting the DC power generated by the solar modules into AC power using a micro-inverter under each module. This means that the cable connecting the panels to a central inverter does not contain a high voltage DC power supply. There is also no need for a DC isolator.
In addition, a micro-inverter system automatically turns itself off when there is a power failure or fault. This is known as a rapid shutdown and should be mandatory in Australia.
Micro-inverter systems have been recognized worldwide as a safer solar solution for around 10 years. In fact, the United States even mandated Safe Solar with its fast shutdown legislation in 2014.
All these years later, the delay in regulatory oversight in Australia means buyers are still at stake, and there are likely to be hundreds of preventable solar panel fires across the country in the years to come.
To compound this problem, we currently have the cheaper end of the solar market in a race to the bottom to see who can offer the cheapest price for an installation. These cheap systems all use outdated technology, and the installers of these systems don't want you to know that the components contained in these systems can present a potential fire hazard.
Jonathan Fisk, Director of Solaray said, “We warn people looking at cheaper solar systems how easy it is for cowboys to get $ 500-1000 out of an installation, but it's difficult to get the message across and is accurate to explain why this is a security risk.
“When you tell people that their installer may be using a cheap DC isolator, it goes right over a person's head until they see the photos of the fires. Then it begins to sink in. “
Take the risk out of solar
Installing a safer solar system from Solaray Energy will reduce the risk of solar energy. By using high quality components, you can fall back on a reliable power source for over 20 years.
Good quality solar systems are designed to last. LG solar modules now offer a 25-year product guarantee. As a Platinum Enphase installer, you now receive a 15-year guarantee for Enphase microinverters.
Micro-inverter systems are not only safer, they are also more reliable and can save you more money in the long term. For more information on how much more money you can save with a quality solar system, check out our article on Quality solar versus cheap solar.
Solaray is the largest microinverter system installer in Australia. In over 10 years of operation, we've never had to remove a solar system because it wasn't working, and we've never had a safer solar system caught on fire.
Our message to the solar industry in Australia is simple; It is time to put customer safety first and catch up with the rest of the developed world.
Solaray, along with other leading industry groups, will continue to fight for improved security standards and industry regulation to protect households from purchasing outdated technology that could pose a fire risk.
We need to recognize that there are safer technologies out there, and we should follow America's lead by requiring solar systems to shut down automatically so that if there is a fault in the system, the voltage throughout the solar system can automatically be lowered to a safe level. We also need greater oversight of the industry to ensure solar systems are installed safely.
If we inspect more new solar systems and punish installers who break the rules, the cowboys will be forced to raise their standards or exit the market.
For more information on how safer solar works, call the Solaray team today at 1300 221 586 or request a callback using the form below: