Photovoltaics and Firefighters’ Operations: Best Practices in Selected Countries

Components of photovoltaic (PV) systems undergo rigorous safety and reliability testing protocols during manufacturing and fulfill the electrical safety requirements established by various codes and standards. These systems do not pose health, safety, or environmental risks under normal operating conditions if properly installed and maintained by trained personnel as required by electrical codes. However, with the ever-growing deployment of PV systems globally and the myriad of applications—from traditional rooftop and ground-mounted installations to more advanced building-integrated and façade systems—it is becoming increasingly important to develop practices and share knowledge on the safe management and risk mitigation of PV systems under non-routine circumstances. This focus includes conditions in which firefighters encounter a PV system that may have been installed improperly or has become damaged. This report aims to facilitate the exchange of knowledge on the best practices and standards of firefighters’ operations in relation to selected countries with considerable deployment of PV systems.

Under non-routine circumstances, if a fire starts in the area of a PV system, firefighting operations may need to be adapted to account for the PV system’s presence and related potential hazards. Such hazards for firefighters caused by a rooftop PV system include: electrical shock, slips and falls, electrical arcing roof collapse, and fire risks from the PV materials.

To protect firefighters and mitigate hazards, research and analyses are available to provide information on how to deal with PV components during and after firefighting. This information has been disseminated as guidelines to firefighters, PV system installers, operation and maintenance providers, and PV users in some regions of the world. This report overviews their content and approach and aims to highlight best practices.

At the same time, we also intend for this report to help people within the PV industry and other stakeholders to understand technical hazards from the viewpoint of firefighters and to promote further actions to avoid or minimize such hazards. Focus is given to rooftop PV systems, which represent the most likely scenario for firefighter interaction with PV systems.