Photovoltaic Systems & Firefighter Safety a New UL study

Do you know what Photovoltaic (PV) is?            

Photo from UL study for Firefighter Safety and Photovoltaic Systems

What are the safety hazards with PV?

What  tactics should be used at fires with PV present?

How do I secure utilities on a PV system?

These are just a few questions you should pose to every firefighter next shift or training meeting.

Photovoltaic (PV) is a method of generating electrical power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity using semiconductors that exhibit the photovoltaic effect.

Total global solar energy capacity averaged 40 percent annual growth from 2000 to 2010; grid-connected solar photovoltaic capacity grew 50 percent per year for much of this time. This growth increases the potential of a fire department response to a building with PV, irrespective of the PV being involved with the initiation of the fire event. This growth increases the potential of a fire department response to a building with PV, irrespective of the PV being involved with the initiation of the fire event.

What are the safety hazards with PV?

Under the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistance to Firefighter Grant Program – Fire Prevention and Safety Grants, Underwriters Laboratories (UL)this study examines electrical and fire performance experiments were conducted to identify and quantify the electrical shock hazard that may be present to firefighters during the suppression, ventilation, and overhaul activities associated with a building or structure fire involving the presence of PV equipment. The scope of these experiments included:

 Water for Fire Suppression During Firefighting Activites with PV

 Shock Hazard Due to the Direct Contact with Energized Components

 Emergency Disconnect and Disruption Techniques

 Severing of Conductors

 Shock Hazard from Damaged PV Modules and Systems

 PV Power During Low Ambient Light, Artificial Light, and Light from a Fire

 Potential Shock Hazard from Fire Damaged PV Components and Systems


What  tactics should be used at fires with PV present?

In this study tactical considerations for PV include:

 Shock hazard due to the presence of water and PV power during suppression activities

 Shock hazard due to the direct contact with energized components during firefighting operations

 Emergency disconnect and disruption techniques

 Severing of conductors

 Assessment of PV power during low ambient light, artificial light and light from a fire

 Assessment of potential shock hazard from damaged PV modules and systems.


For more information about this project please see:



Every Incident Commander,Company Officer and firefighter will greatly enhance there safety by taking this online class. UL has  developed an online interactive training module. The program includes a professionally narrated description of all of the experiments, their results and the tactical considerations.  Experimental video is used and graphical data is explained in a way that brings science to the street level firefighter.


Other posts Green Maltese has done on PV:


Please share this with every firefighter you know!

Stay Safe

Lt. John Shafer










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