Considerable decrease in possibly dangerous PV systems in Australia

Jun 25, 2020 11:51 AM ET
  • A very small number of PV systems mounted on Australian roofs are thought about to be possibly unsafe, the nation's Clean Energy Regulator states in a new report. It identifies water entering DC isolators as the greatest danger and the most usual reason for PV system failings.
Considerable decrease in possibly dangerous PV systems in Australia
Image: Sustainability Victoria

The variety of Australian roof solar systems that can be classified as unsafe or potentially hazardous has actually drastically decreased, verifying the efficiency of solar precaution introduced to shield both installers as well as consumers.

A new report from Australia's Clean Energy Regulator (CER) analyzing the safety dangers connected with rooftop PV has actually found a substantial decrease in the number of substandard solar systems below 100 kW in dimension, with simply 1.7% of examinations of 2018 installations categorized as hazardous (0.7%) or potentially dangerous (1%).

These outcomes are a huge improvement on numbers from 2015, when 5.5% of examinations generated unfavorable results (0.7% risky as well as 4.8% possibly hazardous). From the start of record-keeping in 2010, up to 2018, 3.3% of all systems evaluated were categorized as hazardous (0.7%) or potentially hazardous (2.6%).

" Unsafe" is the most unfavorable score in the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) inspections program assigned to those PV systems that have "a safety threat which poses an unavoidable danger to an individual or residential property." According to CER, there is a small number of evaluations where the PV system does position an impending security risk, such as when there are revealed online components and also nonsecure PV panels.

Nonetheless, water ingress in DC isolators (a detach switch) has actually been identified as the biggest threat and one of the most typical cause for PV systems to be labeled unsafe. While the level of water ingress differs and also most of the times, the DC isolator may come to be dangerous without timely upkeep, this need to not present an impending risk, the report states.

Weakest link

Often described as the weakest web link in the roof PV safety, DC isolators were mandated in Australia in 2012 through the Australian Standard for PV installations (AS/NZS 5033). This made Australia the only country on the planet calling for roof DC isolators. Ever since, they have been confirmed by inspection information to be the biggest single source of traditional DC solar system failings.

While the Standards Australia Committee has yet to embark on a complete evaluation as well as determine whether the setup of DC isolators must continue to be compulsory, the industry has actually been lobbying versus this safety device because it has actually caused even more harm than excellent. The Clean Energy Council (CEC) has actually required a rule change, claiming the DC isolator inside the inverter, instead of as a separate button near the inverter, is the best remedy to prevent water access.

On the whole, 74% of the evaluations of PV systems mounted from 2010 to 2018 have rooftop DC isolators and also 84% of these have DC isolators near the inverter, the CER found. According to the report, a tiny proportion of DC isolators were also incorrectly wired or set up.

While AS/NZS 5033 recommends owners have their PV system inspected consistently and every year for many system parts, consisting of DC isolators, routine evaluations are not required under state and also area electric safety laws. One more downside of isolator components is that they can break down from ecological exposure as a result of specific setup methods and product type, raising the possibility of water ingress as well as ultraviolet radiation damage as well as, as a result, DC isolators may need to be changed within the life of the panels of a PV system.

For that reason, the report recommends state as well as region governments take into consideration whether the potential safety threats from the need for a rooftop DC isolator outweigh the benefits. An additional referral describes getting rid of the requirement for a DC isolator near the inverter and need the wall isolator to be located inside the inverter. Such changes can be gone after through the current standards examine process, while in the meantime, the simple way to avoid DC isolators would certainly be to set up a clever solution that does not use high voltage DC, such as microinverters.

Maintenance checks

The CER report likewise found that other safety and security dangers go to degrees comparable to basic electrical work. Nevertheless, it highlighted the relevance of normal maintenance as well as advises presenting compulsory PV system assessments or educational programs to motivate PV system owners to have a qualified person do normal inspections.

" More than one in 5 Australian families have solar on their roof coverings, and also what this report tells us is that the substantial majority of these systems are set up safely and according to the market guidelines laid out by the Clean Energy Council's Solar Accreditation program," stated CEC Chief Executive Kane Thornton. "While these results are trending in the ideal direction, there is still function to be done. The report highlights the need for routine solar power system upkeep, and the need to raise consumer understanding about the demand for an annual maintenance timetable, similar to servicing your car."

Thornton said there are 2 ways people can guarantee their solar is being installed appropriately, by picking an Approved Solar Retailer and by ensuring the installer that completes the job is recognized by the Clean Energy Council. All recognized installers have a date stamped electronic ID card that they can reveal on their phone.

"The small solar and storage sector has actually done a good task of making the count on of Australians. Currently we require to keep this count on by continually enhancing our safety degrees. By allowing Australians to make the button to rooftop solar with satisfaction, they can minimize their energy prices while fighting environment change and also accelerating our change to a clean energy future," Thornton said.