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Rooftop Solar Panels Prevent Firefighters from Doing their Job

Reuters recently published an article claiming that rooftop solar panels have become the new enemy of firefighters, as they restrict access to roofs to ventilate burning buildings, and offer a risk of collapse as due to the extra weight.

This article is not intended to deter homeowners from investing in rooftop solar panels, but merely introduces a new idea that I for one had never really considered.

The solution to this problem, and the growing difficulties that firefighters are facing in world with increasing volumes of rooftop solar systems, is for proper training programs to be set up that teach firemen how to effectively combat blazes in the presence of rooftop installations. Currently some individual states and municipalities provide their own ad-hoc training, but as of yet there is no nationwide standard operating procedure.

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firefighters solar

Ken Johnson of the Solar Energy Industries Association explained to MNN that, “we are working very closely with firefighters across the United States on the development of codes and standards. After every incident, we learn from it and improve. Firefighters don't have a good idea of how solar works. It's incumbent in us to do a better job in educating them.”

One case that the Reuters article referred to as an example of rooftop solar panels interfering in firefighting duties, was at a meat warehouse in New Jersey on Sunday, where, due to the installation of 7,000 solar panels across the roof of the Dietz & Watston refrigeration facility, firefighters could not effectively combat the blaze, which raged for 30 hours and left the 266,000 square foot warehouse completely gutted.

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New Jersey, it turns out, is actually one of the most advanced states for training firefighters in ways to deal with rooftop PV installations. For three years PSE&G, the state’s largest energy utility, has offered specialised, solar-related training to fire divisions, with more than 5,000 firefighters entering the program to date.

William Kramer, the acting Fire Marshall for the State of New Jersey, stated that “alternative energy sources aren’t going to go away — so we need to be able to adjust to prevent tragedies from happening.”

Solar Panels themselves do not pose a fire hazard, although as with any electrical system, faulty wiring or overloaded circuits can sometimes cause sparks that result in fires. In 2012, a new system installed on the roof of TerraCycle’s headquarters in New Jersey malfunctioned, causing several small fires in junction boxes. The firefighters had to disconnect the 100-panel system from the electrical grid vefore being able to combat the fires.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com



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