Isolate photovoltaic systems

Control Measure Knowledge

Isolation of a domestic photovoltaic (PV) system should consider taking the following actions:

  • Isolation between the PV panels and the inverter
  • Isolation of batteries if present
  • Isolation of the consumer unit

There may be more than one DC isolation switch between the panels and the inverter; isolation should be carried out at the point closest to the panels. Anywhere between the panels and the isolated DC switch will remain live. There should be no unprotected direct contact by personnel or equipment with any part of the photovoltaic system, and electrical gloves should be worn in line with service procedures.

If the PV system includes a solar tracker device, panels may automatically move, which could result in injury or entrapment. Care should be taken in the vicinity of such a system until it is isolated.

Some fire and rescue services have procured equipment that can be used to prevent further generation of electricity by covering the PV panels. If available, equipment should be used in line with service procedures.

Potential collapse

Personnel should be made aware of the potential for:

  • PV panels to fall from a roof
  • Roof collapse, especially in the event of a fire in a building
  • Partial or structural collapse due to the weight of the PV system

Battery storage

If there is PV system battery storage, there should be a cut-off switch for the batteries near to their location. Caution should be exercised as DC power may still be going to or from the batteries.

For further information about the components of PV systems, refer to Building Research Establishment publication Fire safety and photovoltaic systems.

Commercial photovoltaic systems

Commercial PV systems are likely to be more difficult to isolate, along with the added complexities of their location. Fire and rescue services should maintain contact details of the responsible person for commercial PV systems in their area, to enable advice and assistance to be obtained in the event of an incident at the site.

Specialist advice and assistance should be requested for incidents involving commercial PV systems, while exercising caution in the vicinity of the system until isolation has been confirmed.

In the case of floating PV systems, it may be unsafe to try to access the panels due to earth faults, even by using pontoons or boats.

If livestock is present, it may be necessary to apply control measures from the Incidents involving animals guidance.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions