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Steps you need to take when you have a solar system during a storm, cyclone, or flood.

Ashleigh AngellOctober 24, 20182800

Steps you need to take when you have a solar system during a storm, cyclone, or flood.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are connected to the normal power supply for use in homes and businesses. As they are powered by the sun, or any other source of light, they can continue to generate power from the solar modules up to the inverter even if the mains power has been disconnected. As a result, solar PV systems pose an electrical safety risk for residents, solar company employees, and emergency crews in times of severe weather events such as storms, cyclones and floods. It is critical to remember solar modules and their cables should be treated as if they are live at all times. Keep reading this blog to learn what you should do during all steps of a severe weather event in which water is present so that you aren’t at risk of accidental electric shock.

Before the weather event: How to prepare.

When preparing for a storm, cyclone, or flood event, it is important to always follow the manufacturer's or installer's shutdown procedures. Shutdown procedures should be located at the inverter and/or on the main switchboard.

A general shutdown procedure is as follows:

  1. Turn off the inverter AC mains isolator (this is usually found in the meter box)
  2. Turn off the PV array isolator (this is usually found next to the inverter)
  3. If there seems to be a risk that the water level could reach up to the inverters and cables, also arrange to turn off the roof top array isolator (if fitted).
  4. If you are unsure of the shutdown procedure, contact the manufacturer or installer.

During the weather event: what NOT to do.

During a flood event, do not attempt to turn off a solar PV system if any of the components are covered in water or if parts of the system are still wet. This could result in a fatal electric shock. Do not approach the system if parts are submerged, and if forced onto a rooftop to avoid floodwater, keep well away from solar panels and wiring. Do not assume your system is safe if your solar power company has disconnected the supply. PV systems still produce DC voltage while there is daylight no matter what.

After a flood: what to do.

Following receding flood waters, do not attempt to operate any switches as residual moisture may have caused solar PV systems to become live. You could potentially suffer a serious or fatal electric shock, even if mains power is disrupted. Contact your solar company right away and ask them to recommission the system for you. If an installer is not available, contact a licensed electrical contractor who can check your system to ensure that it is safe. Ensure that the solar PV system inverter is replaced if it has been submerged or partly submerged.

After a storm or cyclone: what to do.

After a storm or cyclone, do not attempt to reconnect solar PV systems if your property has suffered from roof damage. Your roof may be live or residual moisture may have caused the system to become live. Visually inspect the system in a safe way, and if concerned, call the installer or a licensed electrical contractor.

Contact your solar energy company to test or recommission the system or a licensed electrical contractor to test that it is safe. And if safe to switch the system back on, monitor the inverter to ensure the system is operating correctly.

Want to learn more about how to utilize your solar energy system and what you should do during any event, whether that be a blackout, a hurricane, or a fire? Check out the HahaSmart blog for tons of resources!

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