Saturday, November 16, 2013

Warranted or Exaggerated: Rooftop Solar Panels and Fires

Recent events around the country have begun to light the kindling for fear as firefighters are unable to perform their jobs correctly if a location has installed solar panels. Unfortunately for the renewable energy technology, skeptics of solar power pounced on the subject like a lioness hitting a lame zebra. Is the fear that is sweeping across the Internet from the dangers of solar panel installations exaggerated in order to get ratings on blogs and websites, or is there solid base to reconsider firefighting techniques?

Electrocutions - It's a scientific fact that water conducts electricity. Given the amount of power that can travel across the power lines of a solar array, this amount of power can easily electrocute a firefighter while causing severe damage and possibly worse. If the heat and flames expose the wires from a solar array and a stream of water hits these cables, the electricity can spread across the liquid at the speed of light. It's unnerving to think about to say the least.

Power Outage Comparison - Unlike a traditional house fire, power cannot be killed to the establishment directly. Regardless if the fire consumes the breaker switch or not, solar panels will continue to draw energy from light. Coincidentally, did you know that the intense light of a fire can be used to fuel solar cells even at night? As the array burns up, the panels surrounding the fire can still be producing thousands of watts worth of electricity.

Focusing on the Negative - Considering how many panels are installed across the world and how often they have intervened in fighting a fire, are media channels merely focusing on a few negative incidences in order to appease to a broad-base of renewable energy disbelievers and oil tycoons? Although some may feel that the news of the manufacturing plant in New Jersey spread across the Internet like a wild-fire of its own accord, it does bring up the question about putting firefighters in harm's way.


Adjusting Tactics - The facility in New Jersey was nearly reduced to nothing more than rubble as firefighters were unable to combat the blaze from the roof. In some situations, there is just no way to combat such an instance. However, wouldn't this call for a more safe approach such as dumping slurry, salt or sand directly onto the fire? Although it's not as effective as a direct hose blasting the fire's fuel, there needs to be alternatives outside of the box that these professionals haven't thought of yet.

Media's Focus - If you were to run a search in Google for "solar panel fire" and date all entries for 2011, you'll see a far different search result than you would for today. Solar panels are not new, but the focus of media has changed for many. Instead of the damage wrought by fires involving solar panels as you would see for 2013, the 2011 search brings up precautionary and preventive measures. What has caused such a shift in the view of so many bloggers and reporters?

The fact is, fighting a fire where vast amounts of electricity are located is going to be ultimately dangerous. Instead of wagging a finger at solar panel manufacturers and the technology, innovation needs to step in and figure out a way to make it safer. Humans are inherently resourceful - what's the next step to safeguard photovoltaic power?
Author Bio:

This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to:

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