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Proceedings Paper

Firefighter safety and photovoltaic installations research project
Author(s): Robert Backstrom; Dave Dini
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Paper Abstract

Under the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistance to Fire Fighters grant, UL LLC examined fire service concerns of photovoltaic (PV) systems. These concerns included firefighter vulnerability to electrical and casualty hazards when mitigating a fire involving photovoltaic (PV) modules systems. Findings include: 1. The electric shock hazard due to application of water is dependent on voltage, water conductivity, distance and spray pattern of the suppression stream. 2. Outdoor weather exposure rated electrical enclosures are not resistant to water penetration by fire hose streams. 3. Firefighter’s gloves and boots afford limited protection against electrical shock provided the insulating surface is intact and dry. 4. “Turning off” an array is not a simple matter of opening a disconnect switch. 5. Tarps offer varying degrees of effectiveness. 6. Fire equipment scene lighting and exposure fires may illuminate PV systems sufficiently to cause a lock-on hazard. 7. Severely damaged PV arrays are capable of producing hazardous conditions. 8. Damage to modules from tools may result in both electrical and fire hazards. 9. Severing of conductors in both metal and plastic conduit results in electrical and fire hazards. 10. Responding personnel must stay away from the roofline in the event of modules or sections of an array sliding off the roof. 11. Fires under an array but above the roof may breach roofing materials and decking allowing fire to propagate into the attic space. Several tactical considerations were developed utilizing the data from the experiments.

Paper Details

Date Published: 16 October 2012
PDF: 15 pages
Proc. SPIE 8472, Reliability of Photovoltaic Cells, Modules, Components, and Systems V, 84720K (16 October 2012); doi: 10.1117/12.965313
Show Author Affiliations
Robert Backstrom, UL LLC (United States)
Dave Dini, UL LLC (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8472:
Reliability of Photovoltaic Cells, Modules, Components, and Systems V
Neelkanth G. Dhere; John H. Wohlgemuth, Editor(s)

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