June 26, 2023

What should firefighters know about safety when operating near solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems?

Firefighters need to be aware of the potential hazards associated with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in order to safely perform their duties. Solar PV systems can present a number of safety risks to firefighters, including:

  • Electrical shock: There is the risk of electric shock if cables are cut or become damaged by fire. This includes cables from battery banks where these are used to store generated electricity.  
  • Fire risk: Solar PV systems pose fire risks just as any other electrical equipment does. Solar panels themselves have been proven to pose an extremely low fire hazard. However, Solar PV systems use electrical wiring and components, which can create a fire risk if they are damaged or malfunction.
  • Structural hazards: Should the roof of the building be affected by fire, then the additional mechanical loading due to the weight of PV panels, or additional wind-loading caused by the panels, may cause early collapse of the roof.
  • Photovoltaic shrapnel: Solar panels can shatter when exposed to extreme heat, creating shards of glass and other debris that can pose a risk to firefighters.

Learn More

For these reasons, it is important that firefighters are trained in how to safely approach and work around solar PV systems in order to minimize these risks. Boost your confidence when operating around solar PV systems by learning from an experienced fire chief. In this mini course, Solar PV Safety for Firefighters, there are 14 brief videos that describe the various solar PV components and provide case studies from which to learn. Watch how departments respond to incidents on solar-equipped structures, both residential and commercial.

Looking for further information about high performance buildings, energy storage, solar, and more? Visit the Clean Energy Clearinghouse for an expanded list of expert resources and CEU’s: