An increasing number of buildings are being fitted with solar electricity generation systems and firefighters need to be aware that isolating power at a main switch may not affect energised supply lines being fed from installed solar array panels.

When exposed to sunlight solar panels generate electricity in the form of direct current (DC) which is supplied to an inverter and converted to AC power that may be used within the building, or fed back to the supply grid.

Should power isolation be required the main switchboard must be isolated in accordance with established procedures with the inverter main switch and solar panel array main switch (located at the inverter) being switched off .

Safety and Photovoltaic Arrays for Fire and Emergency Services

IMPORTANT: power being supplied to the inverter is DC (Direct Current) and cannot be detected by many voltage detection devices. Firefighters attending incidents at buildings fitted with a solar electricity generating systems must consider the potential hazard.

In accordance with AS/NZS 5033 signs must be displayed at the meter box/main switchboard identifying the presence of a solar array and its location. Signage will also indicate the open circuit voltage and short circuit current of the solar array system.

Firefighters should be aware of variances in the design and construction of differing types of power systems incorporating alternative power sources such as wind turbines and diesel generators. The layout and isolation procedures of such systems may vary from the procedures described in this bulletin.

Typical layout example of a grid connect solar electricity generation system,
note the three main system components:

  • Solar Panel Array Usually located on the roof. 
  • Inverter Converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). 
  • Two-way Electricity Allows surplus power from the Meter solar array to be directed to the grid

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