As important as safety regulations are to enhancing PV system safety, so too are the technology advancements setting new benchmarks for higher levels of safety. While traditional inverters may offer limited safety solutions, new technology advancements precede and sometimes surpass safety standards, and even offer cost- and time- effective benefits.

Traditional inverters have limited safety functionality. This is because even when the inverter is shutdown, current flow in the DC cables is not necessarily de-energised, meaning the roof is still unsafe for first responders. For these traditional inverters to meet safety standards, additional, safety-specific hardware typically needs to be purchased and installed. However, with more advanced technology, such as DC optimised inverters, safety functionality, which meets regulations to reduce DC voltage when the inverter or AC energy is shut down, is already embedded within the solution itself.

These types of safety advancements offer benefits to all stakeholders. Firefighters are able to approach the roof without the risk of electrocution. Maintenance personnel are able to perform physical inspections on the PV system. When safety technology is embedded into module-level electronics that also provide module-level monitoring, then an additional benefit for maintenance personnel is that they can perform remote troubleshooting to limit the amount of work with high voltages on the roof. Lastly, system owners receive peace of mind and improved ROI as a result of the safety technology being embedded into the solution without additional costs and a possible decrease in insurance rates.

Although uncommon, a fire outbreak on a building with a PV system can occur, this is when enhanced safety solutions can prove even more crucial. When a fire broke out at a Tasmanian complex that had a PV system, DMS Energy’s Adrian Luke was able to reassure the fire crew that despite the system having been damaged by the fire, exposing copper wires, all the cables had automatically de-energised and were touch-safe. This was due to SolarEdge’s built-in SafeDC safety feature, which automatically reduces DC voltage to a safe level as soon as the grid power or inverter is turned off.

This confidence in SolarEdge’s SafeDC technology extends to firefighters installing SolarEdge on the roofs of their own fire stations. In the UK, a fire and rescue service selected SolarEdge for 700kW of PV systems on 12 different fire stations and three headquarter buildings. This was due to SolarEdge’s advanced safety features, such as its firefighter gateway, which enables central safety management for the PV systems, including automatic and manual system DC shutdown, real time indication of system DC voltage for safety assurance, and an emergency stop button for the entire PV system.

While fires that include PV systems are infrequent and even less frequent are fires caused by PV systems, the further advancement of safety functionality within the industry is important for the continued proliferation of PV.

“In its provision of the National Electrical Code (NEC), which reduces the

shock hazard in PV arrays, there is a rapid shutdown

functionality requirement in rooftop systems.”

As industry bodies are focused on writing new standards, suppliers such as SolarEdge remains committed to leading the industry by developing advanced safety solutions, as it did with its SafeDC and arc detection technology. The combination of evolving regulations and technological innovation, as well as consumer awareness, continues to drive safety forward. TOMORROW’S FM | 53

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