Bill to Protect Firefighters From Solar Panel Dangers Advances

Legislative proposal would require an emblem on buildings where solar panels are attached to protect firefighters from electrocution.

With the increasing number of buildings using alternative energy, emergency responders are often unable to identify structures with solar panels on their roofs — putting them at risk of electrocution in the event of a fire. 

In an effort to protect firefighters against the danger of electrocution posed by solar panels, Assemblyman Robert Schroeder (R-Woodcliff Lake), a volunteer firefighter in the Township of Washington since 1980 who has twice served as fire chief, has sponsored a bill that would require buildings to clearly label with an exterior emblem whether they have solar panels.

The bipartisan bill was approved by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee, on which Schroeder serves.

"New Jersey is one of the fastest-growing markets for solar energy and trails only California in terms of installations, but solar panels pose an unintended threat to firefighters," Schroeder said last week.

"Safe firefighting requires knowledge and awareness of the situation. This bill will let emergency responders know at a glance when there's a threat of electrocution because the building is actively harnessing power from the sun."

The safety measure was recommended in a National Fire Protection Association report focusing on structural firefighting in buildings that utilize solar panels to generate thermal and/or electrical energy.

According to the report, buildings with solar power systems "can present a variety of significant hazards" for firefighters.  

In addition, the bill requires that all existing and newly constructed buildings with solar panels be equipped with an external shut-off switch. 

"We can have clean reliable energy without making fires any more dangerous than they already are," said Schroeder.

"As a firefighter, I understand the value of knowing immediately what potential dangers await in a burning building I might have to enter."

"Simply putting a warning sign on the outside of a building could very well save the life of one of our brave first responders," Schroeder said. 

Shannon K. Winning March 13, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Holy cow, I didn't even know that was an issue. As if running directly into a burning building isn't dangerous enough.
Marjorie Smith March 14, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Just one more reason to keep using fossils fuels! Yeaaaa.
Edward Van Embden (Editor) March 14, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Pretty bizarre report. Please read it if you're interested in the history of solar power or are writing a term paper about it. It's almost completely devoid of actual information regarding the dangers of solar to firefighters. Be prepared to read sentences like this throughout the whole report, however: "Statistical data from present data collection efforts does not address whether or not photovoltaic power systems were involved with any of these occurrences."
lisa March 14, 2012 at 03:22 AM
ha Ed, i was thinking the same thing....im reading thru the article and expecting to find a paragraph somewhere within the body explaining why its so dangerous...and nothing....today EVERYONE is a writer...problem is some of them need to take classes in writing....that was a terrible job but then again this is the patch....it pains me that aol took away our "real" newspapers for local information and gave us this crap.
Edward Van Embden (Editor) March 14, 2012 at 04:32 AM
Not to split hairs, but aol didn't take away your newspapers. Newspapers failing to recognize the importance of the internet until it was too late is why they started to fail/decline long, long, long before Patch showed up.
Edward Van Embden (Editor) March 14, 2012 at 04:39 AM
And just to clarify, when I say report, I'm talking about the report linked to in the article, not the article itself, which does more than a fine job of explaining the bill and its sponsor.
Sal March 14, 2012 at 06:52 AM
EVERY structural fire in extremely dangerous. Any structure on fire has all sorts of hidden dangers. The solar panels are not really any worse than any of the other potential dangers when entering any structure that is on fire. Every structure has electric lines and natural gas lines feeding into it. Deadly toxic fumes from all sorts of burning plastics can be fatal. Any flammable liquid in a container can explode due to heat from any fire___from hair spray, to spray paint. to spray air fresheners. Many homeowners store all sorts of flammable paints, varnish and small canisters of propane they use for camping lanterns and for plumbing torch work repairs in their homes, basements and garages. A vehicle parked inside any garage can explode due to gasoline in it's tank. If building owners had to post a sign of all the Hazardous materials inside their homes they would have to erect 10 foot by 12 foot bill board size signs on their lawns. Yes indeed, being a fire fighter is highly dangerous work and firefighters should be aware of all those dangers___WITHOUT the need for written warning signs to remind them. What's next a sign "Beware home contains deadly toxic plastics in furniture, electronics and couch cushions".
Ironman March 14, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Sal I agree that any fire whether in a PD, MD or Commercial Structure will have its inherent and hidden dangers. As the late Frank Branningan has said "the building is the enemy, know your enemy." Sizing up the job and gathering info is important to every member operating on the fireground. Thats exactly the reason truss type construction in commercial occupancies are marked with symbols to let the FD know what they are potentially walking into or on. Solar panels have the ability to kill due to the stored energy and and your not going to see them pulling up on a job at 3 AM with fire blowing from a few windows and heavy smoke pushing thru the eaves. I applaud this measure in that it alerts the members on the fireground of a potentially lethal danger.
Scott Drichter November 25, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Nice article. It outlines some safety issues in relation to solar panels, fire and electrocution. Yes fire fighters have lots of other safety worries when entering a a house or building, so lets help protect us by protecting them. Unable to turn off solar panels means there is always DC voltage in and around solar panels and wiring. Also spraying damaged solar panels with water can cause them to explode. Give the firies all the support they need.
Remote Solar Isolator November 25, 2012 at 01:28 AM
It’s a fact that solar panels installed on buildings can never be completely switched off and continues to generate electricity whenever the sun is shining. Even by turning off all associated solar switches, electricity generated by the panels continues to be produced at lethal voltages. This can lead to complications if there is a need to isolate the panels, such as in the case of cleaning, maintenance or more seriously, for building fires, floods or storm damage. Understandably, emergency services are reluctant to come into contact with, or spray water onto a dangerous and potentially life-threatening source of electricity. The standard isolation system installed on rooftop solar panels fails to provide safe isolation and has been the cause of numerous fires throughout the world. The placement of this standard DC switch/isolator has done nothing to stop the generation of the lethal DC voltages required for solar generation. The Remote Solar Isolator is the world’s first true Remote Solar Isolator which will remove the risk of potentially lethal DC voltages circulating around all power generating solar panels and associated electrical wiring providing total control. The device can be initiated remotely from a sub station or by flicking a switch at the home’s fuse box. The device also has a thermal fuse in case of fire, whether caused by the solar panels or not. See remotesolarisolator.com.au for more details.
Remote Solar Isolator March 27, 2013 at 10:04 PM
Protect our firefighters who do an amazing job. Install a Remote Solar Isolator and protect everyone from the possibility of electrocution. remotesolarisolator.com.au
Martin Boerner April 15, 2013 at 06:46 AM
Hi Edward The issue clearly explained: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyKfhPm67Z4 I apprecaite your comments are more about modern journalism however solar safety is important. MB
Martin Boerner April 15, 2013 at 06:50 AM
Hi Edward The solar issue explained: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyKfhPm67Z4 I appreciate your comments are more about modern journalism rather tha solar safety. MB
Boon May 02, 2013 at 12:17 PM
A solar isolating switch that reduces the DC power to a safe voltage, in case of emergency or need for roof access, is the way to go. It's an Aussie invention called remote solar isolator that is providing the solution.
George Clark May 02, 2013 at 01:33 PM
i thought solar power was a myth and generated little energy according to most people i've heard from on the subject.


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