Potential Fire Risks Associated with Photovoltaic Power Generation and Measures for Prevention
and Response

· PV Industry News,About Solar Panels

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Alarming Incidents of Photovoltaic Fires
  3. Causes of Photovoltaic Fires
  4. Prevention and Response Measures for Photovoltaic Users
  5. Conclusion

 

Introduction

Photovoltaic power generation is a clean, safe, and environmentally friendly method of producing electricity that has grown rapidly and gained widespread use in recent years. However, similar to other electrical equipment, photovoltaic power stations are not without fire hazards. These potential risks can arise from equipment malfunctions, electrical wiring issues, adverse weather conditions, or improper handling. When a fire breaks out, it can result in equipment damage and pose serious threats to life and property, significantly disrupting the stable operation of PV power generation systems. Hence, the timely identification and effective management of fire hazards are crucial to ensuring the safe operation of PV power plants.

Alarming Incidents of Photovoltaic Fires

Alarming Incidents of Photovoltaic Fires

In April 2024, a fire erupted in a container housing lithium-ion batteries in Neermoor. According to reports, when firefighters arrived, they observed only light smoke. However, upon opening the storage container, an explosion occurred with a flash of flame. It took nearly ten hours for the fire department and police to extinguish the blaze, and the neighboring highway was closed for several hours. Initial police estimates put the damage at around 500,000 euros. Although the exact cause of the fire remains unclear, it is speculated that thermal runaway may have been a trigger. This phenomenon involves physical and chemical reactions within the battery that produce excessive heat and gases, potentially leading to a fire or explosion once the stabilized temperature region is surpassed.

fire erupted in a container housing lithium-ion batteries in Neermoor

In February 2024, a £70 million commercial warehouse in Peterborough, UK, experienced a fire in its roof-mounted PV modules. The fire was attributed to an electrical fault that caused the roof solar panels to ignite.

commercial warehouse in Peterborough, UK

In August 2023, a fire broke out at a photovoltaic egg farm in Italy, resulting in the death of over 20,000 laying hens in the shed. The local fire department suggested that the fire was likely caused by the photovoltaic system. The blaze consumed more than 1,500 square meters of heat shields, generating a large amount of smoke that led to the asphyxiation of tens of thousands of hens.

a fire broke out at a photovoltaic egg farm in Italy

In October 2022, a pharmaceutical plant in western Sydney, Australia, suffered extensive property damage when solar panels on the roof caught fire, destroying millions of dollars' worth of equipment.

Causes of Photovoltaic Fires

Photovoltaic fires not only cause property damage but also pose risks to human safety and the environment. Thus, understanding the causes of these fires is critical.

1.Equipment Malfunctions

The core components of PV systems include solar panels, inverters, and cables. Over extended periods of operation, these elements may suffer from damage, aging, or loosening, potentially leading to circuit shorts, arcs, and other faults that can result in fires. Statistical data indicates that over 80% of PV system fires originate from faults on the direct current side. Ensuring the proper functioning of PV system equipment is vital, as it affects the system's efficiency, reliability, and safety.

2.Electrical Line Loose Connection, Overload, or Short Circuit

Excessive loads, loose connections, or short circuits within the PV system can cause excessive current, leading to fires. Improperly designed components or circuits, such as those failing to account for load variations, poor wiring, or material defects, may result in overcurrent during operation, abnormal heating, reduced insulation strength, and potential self-ignition, ultimately causing fires.

3.Improper Installation

Improper installation is another major factor in photovoltaic fires. Installers lacking professional knowledge or proper operation may cause issues like incorrect component connections, overstretched wires, or poor grounding, leading to abnormal system operation and fires. Design flaws, such as improper installation locations, unstable support structures, or unreasonable distribution system designs, can also lead to electrical faults and increase fire risks. Therefore, professional design, construction, and installation are essential to minimize safety hazards and ensure the safe operation of PV systems.

4.External Factors

Photovoltaic power stations are built outdoors, making them vulnerable to weather and natural disasters. Extreme weather conditions such as strong winds, heavy rain, or hail can damage the power station's equipment. For instance, strong winds can cause structural loosening, heavy rain can lead to equipment dampness, and hail can damage equipment casings. These damages can not only degrade equipment performance but also, in severe cases, cause equipment failures and fires. Therefore, it is crucial to promptly identify and respond to the impacts of these natural factors to ensure the safe operation of photovoltaic power stations.