Some Australian households with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are located in areas under threat from bushfires, floods or cyclones.
These are usually in regional and rural areas, but can be in metro areas where isolated fires, floods and cyclones are possible.
2019 update: Safety in flood and bushfire affected ares
Natural disasters in January 2019; floods in Queensland and bushfires in Tasmania may have caused damage to PV systems in affected areas.
If you come across a solar PV system that may have been damaged in a flood, storm or bushfire, an accredited installer needs to inspect the system to ensure it is not dangerous.
Do not attempt to turn on the system after a storm or flood. Take care with PV equipment or structures which may have fire damage. Stay away from the solar panels and wiring until assessed as safe to approach.
Even if the network supply is turned off, PV systems and associated wiring may still be live; systems will continue to produce voltage during the day.
Ensure that any repairs to the system are electrically safe before it is re-commissioned. This check needs to be done before other clean-up work starts around the PV modules and associated electrical wiring.
Once the system has been checked and is safe, follow the start-up procedure.
Fire, flood and cyclone emergency situations
If you have solar panels on your roof and are faced with an emergency fire, flood or cyclone situation, there are only two things you need to remember:
- If you need to evacuate, leave your house immediately
- Upon returning to your house, do not attempt to turn your solar power system back on. Contact your Clean Energy Council-accredited installer to have your system recommissioned. If your installer is not available, contact a licensed electrician who can check your system to ensure it is safe.
If your solar panels have suffered fire, flood or cyclone damage, attempting to turn them back on (including operating any switches) could result in a lethal electric shock. An accredited installer needs to check that your system is safe.
Planning ahead for fire, flood and cyclone situations
If you are planning for a possible fire, flood or cyclone, and are likely to receive a day or more warning to leave your house, there may be some extra precautionary measures you can take.
You can follow the 'shutdown procedure' when leaving your house. This should be marked on your inverter or meter box.
A general guide to the procedure is as follows:
- Turn off the solar supply mains switch (this is usually found in the meter box)
- Turn off the normal supply main switch (this is usually found in the meter box)
- Turn off the PV array isolator (this is usually found next to the inverter)
Some stand-alone solar power systems may include battery storage that can also be disconnected.
If you are planning for a possible fire, flood or cyclone, and are likely to receive a day or more warning to leave your house, you can take the following steps to shut down your stand-alone solar system and battery storage:
- Turn off solar array
- Turn off inverter
- Follow battery shutdown procedures to isolate the battery bank
- Disable the generator from starting if it has auto start.
For further information on fire, flood and cyclone emergency management plans, contact your local emergency services.