ETV "the right fit" for new PV module safety product
The recent verification of a PV module safety product called PVStop, shows how the EU‑ETV scheme can help new products gain acceptance from regulators and the market.
Report from – Tom Harvey
PVStop addresses an important safety issue affecting Photovoltaic (PV) systems. PV modules – the electricity generating blue/black panels increasingly seen on household roofs – cannot be easily “switched off” while they are exposed to light. In an emergency situation, such as a fire, flood or storm, the modules may continue to produce potentially lethal amounts of DC electricity.
This is known as the ‘DC Danger Zone’. The result is a significant risk to the fire and emergency services responding to incidents involving PV systems. With the substantial and ongoing growth in solar PV installations – the UK already has around 1 million registered installations – this has become an important safety concern, and one that will be increasingly encountered.
PVStop has been developed by the Australian-based company Solar Developments, who specialises in innovative safety solutions for the renewable energy sector. PVStop blocks the supply of light to the PV modules by acting as a ‘liquid tarpaulin’ – applied by spraying, rolling or brushing – which immediately begins to de-energise the system.
“It is a state-of-the-art water-based, polymer film technology,” says Solar Developments Director Jim Foran, “which is non-flammable, fire-retardant, non-conductive and anti-arcing. It dries quickly to form a waterproof coating that causes no damage to the PV modules. When you want to re-activate the system you simply peel it off and dispose of it with normal garbage waste.”
Having developed the product, the question facing the company was how to prove its effectiveness to potential customers and gain market acceptance.
“The verification process was of absolute critical importance in the development of PVStop, given that our technology is unique and we are relatively unknown to the fire and rescue community,” says Foran (who describes the verification process in a video). “With no standard, industry recognised testing, we were struggling to find a partner with the capabilities to conduct an independent testing programme and that would be credible in the eyes of the world’s fire and emergency services. We had scoured the world before finding the right fit with BRE Global and the EU-ETV scheme.”
BRE Global has been certificating PV products for more than eight years, but Solar Developments is the first company to receive a Statement of Verification (published 6 September 2017) from BRE Global as part of the EU-ETV pilot programme. The BRE National Solar Centre and the London Fire Brigade helped in developing and carrying out the rigorous test program that validated the performance of PVStop, under the Energy Technologies area of the EU-ETV pilot scheme.