Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Soaring Solar Panel Sales Lead To New Firefighting Dangers

MONSON, Mass (WGGB) — Solar panels are popping up everywhere these days, especially in western Massachusetts. The Commonwealth 4th in the nation in new installations. Nationwide, more solar has been installed in the last 18 months than in the 30 years prior. However, with all the new technology comes all new danger.

“It is surprising relative to the quickness that we have really taken off and exceeded what was the benchmark of the amount of solar that would be intalled for 2020,” founder of Green Earth Energy Photovoltaic Christopher Scyocurka said.

But if the building that solar panels are installed on catches fire, they bring added risks to crews. Among the concerns: a greater likelihood that the building will collapse because of added weight from the panels, a difficulty cutting holes in the roof where they are needed to ventilate, and concerns over electrocution.

“As long as it’s receiving some type of light source. That could be through the sun, it could be through the moonlight, or even artificial lights when we set up at night and we have the scene lit up with our big lights it will be always generating power,” Monson Fire Chief Laurent McDonald said.

The power to the house can be cut, but not the panels themselves. Monson firefighters stopped a fire at a home with solar panels before it spread to the roof earlier this month, but it reminded them how serious solar panel dangers are.

“We are now going out and training our people based upon these studies and the research that’s been done so that to be forewarned is to be forearmed,” McDonald said.

With solar panels eliminating or drastically cutting back utility bills, experts say their popularity will grow, Scyocurka says that’s why Green Earth Energy now holds informational sessions so customers and firefighters both stay safe.

“Just so that they have that working familiarity of the solar system, it’s components, and you know what are the easy ways of working around it safely,” Scyocurka said.

Homeowners can do their part, too by working with your solar contractor, local building code officer, and fire department.
This will allow you to strategically place the paneling and allow first responders to be aware of what they will be facing in a worst case scenario.


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