Working on hail-damaged solar panels
As we enter into storm season across much of Australia, the ferocity of the weather can do serious damage. Recent destructive storms in South East Queensland have prompted Master Electricians Australia (MEA) to provided expert guidance for sparkies inspecting or working on hail-damaged rooftop solar installations.
According to MEA, you will need to check a few details before you even start.
- Straight up, you’ll need to get permission to make the installation safe. If the customer is a tenant, verify who needs to approve the work — is it them or the owner?
- Check to see if the premises are insured and if the insurer is happy for you to commence work.
- Document everything — that means taking photographs and recording notes. This is imperative for insurance claims or in the event that further problems arise from damaged panels.
- Assess the installation for safe access and potential hazards. This means checking for structural integrity, asbestos, broken glass, heights, access to the roof, weather (including potential storms and wind), electrical faults and hazards, and whether there are any other trades onsite that may prevent access.
MEA suggests that a complete risk assessment should be carried out and recorded before any works are undertaken, as many sites are rendered dangerous after storm activity.
If work has been approved and is safe to carry out, make sure to adhere to the following:
- Ensure appropriate PPE is worn by all workers.
- Isolate electrical installation or circuits to be worked on or near.
- Inverter isolated, including tag out or lock out.
- DC isolator tag out lock out.
- Cover PV cells to reduce generation potential — ensure any coverings used are secure.
- Split strings and make safe wiring to reduce string voltages where possible.
Before removing and replacing damaged panels, consider the following:
- Do the owners wish to rectify the installation and have they given permission?
- Has the insurer given permission for work to be carried out?
- Is coordination with other trades for access to roof area for other repairs required?
Damaged solar panels must be disposed of properly. Solar panels may contain small quantities of toxic chemicals such as cadmium telluride, copper indium selenide, cadmium gallium (di)selenide, copper indium gallium (di)selenide, hexafluoroethane, lead and polyvinyl fluoride. It is essential panels are disposed of correctly to avoid chemicals affecting people or being released into the environment.
For further information or to seek additional advice, contact the MEA.
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