The epitome of clean energy, solar power is a thriving sector across the
country. This renewable resource is increasingly affordable with small-scale
prices dropping almost 30 percent from 2010 to 2013 and large-scale system costs dropping
even more. In sunny locations, a five-kilowatt home rooftop photovoltaic
(PV) system produces enough yearly kilowatt hours to meet the electricity
demands of an average U.S. household. Solar panels are made up of smaller
PV cells that convert sunshine into electricity by allowing light particles
to bump electrons free from atoms, which generates an electric current
from one side of the cell to the other. However, the technology is not
Solar power uses panels to collect sunlight and convert it into electricity.
Hazards associated with this technology include:
- Defectively made products
- Improper installation
- Increased risk of fire and fire damage.
The majority of the world’s solar panel manufacturing capacity is located in China. Under pressure to cut costs and accelerate
production, many manufacturers have had to sacrifice quality – leading
to defective, unsafe products. One U.S. audit company discovered defect
rates ranging from 5.5 percent to 22 percent during inspections of 50
Chinese factories over a recent 18-month period. Quality problems are
not limited to Chinese products. By way of example, American-made solar
panels installed on one warehouse roof were just two years into their
expected 25-year life span when their protective coatings began to disintegrate
and other defects produced two fires. A commonly malfunctioning component
that can result in fire is the inverter, which is where the electricity
from the solar panels is converted to power the building.
Fires are also caused by electrical wiring issues. There are few installation
and maintenance standards of roof-top mounted PV systems. In the absence
of clear electrical codes, inexperienced installation crews may use non-commercial-grade
equipment or fail to properly connect safety devices intended to detect
shorts, which increases the risk of a fire as well as an entire electrified
roof. Solar panels that were improperly configured can make roof fires
worse or harder to put out by trapping heat in the gap between them and
the roofing material. Damage or structural problems can occur if the PV
system is heavier than the roof is designed to withstand. Improperly secured
panels can blow off in high winds, causing property and personal damage.
According to one report, firefighters believe that rooftop solar panels cause roofs to collapse
faster during fires and even stop some firefighting techniques from being
used, such as cutting a hole in the roof to vertically ventilate a fire.
The extra risk of electrocution also presents a challenge because the
panels are constantly generating electricity. Before installing a PV system,
help yourself by having a professional determine whether your roof can
hold the weight or whether it should be mounted elsewhere. While there’s
not much you can do to prevent a fire caused by solar panels, be ready
for one by having working smoke detectors and an escape plan. Business
owners in particular should have the system inspected by an independent
expert annually and after extreme weather.
If you have any questions about this topic, or if you believe that an improperly
designed, manufactured, or installed solar panel system may be responsible
for your injury or that of a loved one, talk to the personal injury attorneys
at Stabinski & Funt, P.A. As one of South Florida's most respected
and oldest law firms, we have helped many people sort out their legal
rights, responsibilities, and remedies for over 45 years. If you wish
to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage
you to contact us today by calling 305-643-3100 or
filling out a free case evaluation form.