A recent study by Firetrace International, a leading provider of fire suppression technology, indicates that solar farm fires are seeing a sharp rise.
The report, titled “Hidden Danger – why solar farm fire risk could be greater than you think,” highlights that the industry could possibly be misjudging the threat of fire and that it urgently needs to address the issue, particularly as cumulative installed PV capacity increased by approximately one quarter in 2021. Unfortunately, the number of fires increased more quickly than growth of installations in some markets.
Statistics revealed by the Australian PV Institute showed that between 2018 and 2020 PV installations increased less than three-fold, the data from Fire and Rescue New South Wales (NSW), however, reveals that the number of solar fires attended by firefighters in the same period rose six-fold.
The report also looks at a study by the UK’s BRE National Solar Centre –entitled “Fire and Solar PV Systems – Investigations and Evidence”. The study provided a detailed investigation into a total of 80 potential PV-related fire incidents that led to the overall conclusion that researchers “strongly suspected a degree of under-reporting, especially amongst solar farms and domestic thermal events that were resolved by a solar installer/maintenance engineer.”
Furthermore, it explores how this lack of transparency could prevent the industry from establishing an accurate baseline to continuously improve best practice.
The report goes on to establish three root causes for photovoltaic fires, namely, error in the design system, a faulty product/s, or poor installation practice.
According to the report, the photovoltaic component that presents the greatest fire risk are DC isolators, which cause around a third of solar fire incidents. However, DC connectors and inverters can also pose significant risks.
The study also outlines a number of steps to minimize the risk including regular testing by independent third parties, incorporating additional safety components, such as fire suppression technology, and ensuring defective parts are replaced quickly.
Ross Paznokas, Global Business Development Manager – Clean Energy, Firetrace International, says: “With the number of PV installations dramatically increasing around the world, taking these steps will be vital in reducing fire risk, which is why we launched our best-in-class fire suppression technology into the solar industry earlier this year.
“We’re drawing on our experience in the wind industry, where the technology has already been installed more than 23,000 times in turbines across the world, and are working hard to support the solar industry in understanding the causes of solar farm fires, and gaining confidence to share this data so that we can learn from fire events and establish best-practice.”