A Standard Solution to PV System Safety Fears

News has emerged recently of another situation where concern has been raised over the safety of certain domestic solar PV installations.

On this occasion, in Australia, the NSW Government issued details of a survey of solar PV installations in western Sydney that found that 18.5% of the installations had major defects. Of the 658 systems inspected, 122 were found to have significant safety issues and a further 418 (63.5%) were found to have minor defects.

These findings mirror that of a similar survey last year in France when safety inspectors from the electrical safety certification agency Conseul found that 51% of all PV installations in the country posed a potential safety risk and did not conform to regulations.

As with so many issues in business, shortcomings and errors cannot always be attributed to lack of care and poor workmanship. In reality they are more likely to be the result of inadequate process procedures and documentation.

Solar PV is one of the fastest growing global technologies and it is generally recognised worldwide that the solar industry has developed at a faster rate than the standard-making organisations have been able to keep pace with.

Despite these highlighted problems it appears to have been overlooked in places that an international standard already exists that if incorporated in mandatory national documents would help to eliminate safety and quality issue.

The IEC62446 standard defines the minimum requirements for system documentation, commissioning tests and inspection for PV systems. As such, this standard not only specifies the minimum testing and inspection requirements but equally importantly how the inspection and test results are documented and supplied to the consumer after installation.

In many cases documentation not only provides evidence to the consumer that work has been performed correctly, but it also acts as a check list to an installer and ensures that best practice is followed with the work that is being undertaken.

Various countries including the UK have adopted IEC62446 in their national accreditation schemes and although the standard is not mandatory, it is effectively enforced because no feed-in-tariff will be paid to a consumer unless the installation has been installed by an accredited installer.

A broader understanding and acceptance of IEC62446 would therefore not only help safeguard the future integrity of solar PV installations wherever they are – but would also help allay the concerns that have been raised over the proficiency of the PV installers involved.
 

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