“Although solar panels have been around for some time, the fire service is now encountering more and more solar installations on businesses and residences,”
As solar PV systems increasingly appear on rooftops throughout the United States, especially in California, Solarponics felt that there was a need to train firefighters on system safety. Battalion Chief Heath said that though there is a training program offered by the state, he does not know how comprehensive the program is.
“The firefighters want to feel comfortable around solar electric systems. We want them to know that we are a resource if they have any questions,” said Kristian Emrich, Vice President of Solarponics.
The training took place at CJ’s Café, located at 611 E. Grand Avenue in Arroyo Grande. CJ’s was one of the first restaurants to install a solar panel system on the Central Coast. Using a location with an installed, operating solar system allowed Solarponics to give firefighters hands-on training, on CJ’s roof.
“I believe this training is vital to the safety of all firefighters. I think it was a very good idea and I hope to repeat it on an annual basis. We greatly appreciate Solarponics for approaching us and offering the excellent training they provided us,” said Heath.
The goal of the training program is to educate firefighters about the safest ways to interact with solar systems. Emrich says there are few risks for firefighters who are aware and trained on how to work with solar systems. Solarponics plans to continue solar safety training for firefighters with another round of training next month. They encourage any fire department interested in learning more about solar safety to contact them.
“I am glad to work for a team that prides itself on preventative measures and truly specializes in not just solar, but the important safety measures associated with solar such as electrical codes,” said Mike Wiegel, Design Manager and Solar Safety Trainer at Solarponics.
Future PV installs are expected to feature additional preventative measures required by The National Electrical Code (NEC), Cal Fire and local jurisdictions (AHJ). Some of these safety measures include walkways around all arrays, reflective labels to help identify solar conduits and separate devices to shut off each module.