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Protecting Your Solar System During Emergencies: A Guide

A Guide to Protecting Your Solar During Emergencies

Australians face harsh heat waves and stormy weather and have done so since the early settlers arrived in 1788. The wind was hope for the convicts, soldiers, women, children as the years rolled into the early 1800s. Verandas began to be built around two sides of houses in the 1830s in Sydney to protect against rain damaging bricks and to provide shade from the sun. One picnic led to a rock being struck by lightning and women injured by the debris.

Sydney’s weather conditions were as unpredictable as England’s yet more intense than anything most had experienced that lived in early Sydney.

Presently Australians nationwide face flooding and storms following a few months of extreme hot weather on the brink of drought.

This guide aims to provide simple steps to protect your home solar system in moments like this present climate disaster.

Climate projections predict mass drought and flooding over the next hundred years.

Australian Warning System

Australia’s warning system was implemented following the bushfire season a few years ago. There are three categories of risk. The following are taken directly from the Australian Warning System website:

  • Advice (Yellow): An incident has started. There is no immediate danger. Stay up to date in case the situation changes.
  • Watch and Act (Orange): There is a heightened level of threat. Conditions are changing and you need to start taking action now to protect you and your family.
  • Emergency Warning (Red): An Emergency Warning is the highest level of warning. You may be in danger and need to take action immediately. Any delay now puts your life at risk.

Planning For the Worst

It is fundamental to have an action plan in place to protect your solar system in the case of an emergency. Far more fundamental is your own safety. Implement steps beginning at yellow alert to ensure the protection of your solar system.

Always prioritise your own safety and keep listening for news relating to the imminent danger.

Yellow: 

  • Check and charge backup batteries and UPS.

Orange:

  • Shut down your PV system using appropriate shutdown procedure.
  • Switch off the battery if preparing to evacuate.
  • Turn off non-essential loads or shut down the system if preparing to evacuate.

Red:

  • Follow and continue to monitor the emergency advice.
  • If evacuating, turn off the main switch if it is safe.

Ways to Prepare

Practice turning off your solar system:
  • Safety First: Before turning off your solar system, make sure to prioritize safety. Ensure that you are familiar with the system and have read the user manual or consulted a professional if needed.
  • Disconnect from the Grid: If your solar system is connected to the grid, you’ll need to disconnect it first. Locate the main disconnect switch or breaker in your electrical panel and turn it off. This will stop the flow of electricity from your solar panels to the grid. Or turn off the AC isolator. The AC isolator is adjacent to the inverter. It is labelled, “AC Isolator”. Turn the switch to the OFF position.
  • Turn off the DC isolator: The DC isolator is built into the inverter. It is labelled, “PV Array DC Isolator”. Turn the switch to the OFF position. Wait 60 seconds for the inverter to deenergise.

To turn the system back on, switch the DC isolator on first, followed by turning the AC back on.

Hazards

During emergencies like floods, storms, or bushfires, solar PV systems can pose hazards. These include electrical shock from floodwaters, fire risks during bushfires, structural damage from high winds, water damage from heavy rainfall, and limited accessibility for emergency responders. It’s important to disconnect the system from the grid, turn it off during bushfires, secure loose objects, protect against water damage, and inform emergency services. Prioritise personal safety and follow local authorities’ guidance.

What To Do Next

After a storm, it is crucial to visually inspect your system before turning it back on. Look for obvious damage like fallen tree branches or hail damage, but also be aware that there may be hidden issues such as damaged cabling, smouldering embers from a bushfire, or water damage from floods. 

If you see any damage or dampness, or if you’re unsure, do not attempt to turn on the system. Instead, contact your insurer and they will arrange for a certified solar installer to assess the situation. 

If everything looks safe and you’re confident there is no damage, you can cautiously try turning the system back on in reverse order. Check the inverter display screen for any red lights indicating an ‘earth fault’ or ‘ground fault’. Only green lights should be present. If there are any red lights, turn off the system immediately and contact your insurer.

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