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Firefighters: Rooftop solar panels create 'electrified obstacles'

Lt. Josh Guay said the best thing to do is to turn off the panels and not touch them


By FireRescue1 Staff

MANCHESTER, N.H. — The increasing installation of solar panels on top of homes and businesses is posing new challenges for firefighters.

WMUR reported that firefighters call the rooftop solar panels electrified obstacles.

Solar panels installed on New Hampshire buildings are required to have a “rapid shutdown compliance” that turns off power to and from the system. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)
Solar panels installed on New Hampshire buildings are required to have a “rapid shutdown compliance” that turns off power to and from the system. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

"We like to get up on roofs when buildings are on fire and use that to ventilate the building," Manchester Fire Lt. Bob Field said. "Obviously, now we've got to share the roof with the solar panels and work around them."

Lt. Field and Lt. Josh Guay said they have seen an uptick in solar panel installations over the past decade, but there is not much protocol on how to handle them.

"I started seeing them everywhere, and I'm like, 'We don't have a policy on how to handle these,' so I started doing research," Lt. Guay said.

Although he couldn’t find many written policies on what to do if a burning building is covered by a solar array, Lt. Guay said the best thing to do is to turn it off and don’t touch it.

"Trying to get them shut down as quickly as possible, letting the other companies working on-scene know that they're there, and then, again, trying to stay away from them as much as possible," Lt. Guay said.

Solar panels installed on New Hampshire buildings are required to have a “rapid shutdown compliance” that turns off power to and from the system.

"If that disconnect is turned off, the array stops producing power and sending power from the panels to that point of disconnect," Erik Shifflett of Granite State Solar said.

Lt. Field said that even though the solar panels require more training and dangerous situations, it’s an inevitable future.

"As technology evolves and it gets involved with the buildings, we have to learn how to deal with it and keep moving forward," he said.

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