Soaring utility prices combined with generous government incentives led to a boom in the uptake of solar power systems by Australian homeowners in 2019, and the renewable energy revolution is set to continue down under.
However, a cloud of doubt looms over the fire safety efficacy of the regulations that guide the Australian solar power system installation and equipment standards.
According to the Safer Solar website, two fires caused by DC-related faults in solar power systems are reported per week in Australia, and this number can be expected to rise as the rate of installations increase and systems age. Consequently, there is widespread support across the nation’s solar industry to bring installation and equipment standards in line with global best practices.
DC isolators versus rapid shutdown
During 2010, in response to growing consumer demand for rooftop solar systems, emergency services teams responsible for responding to house fires decided that a safe emergency access solution was required. Steps were taken in parallel by Australian and U.S. authorities to address the issue. In Australia, a rooftop DC isolator (a manually operated switch) was mandated in 2012, whereas the U.S. introduced rapid shutdown requirements in the 2014 National Electrical Code (NEC).
Rapid shutdown provides a quick and easy method to de-energize solar panels to ensure complete safety for first responders and eliminate the risk of electrocution.
By comparison, to operate the rooftop DC isolators used in Australia, emergency services personnel must climb onto a roof that may already be dangerous to access. Additionally, even with a switched isolator, the cabling under the panels remains fully energized up to 600 volts DC.
Safe AC solar is available in Australia now
While Enphase fully supports initiatives focused on aligning Australian solar installation standards with global best practices, there is no need for homeowners to wait for the wheels of regulatory review to turn. A safe rooftop solar solution is readily available for Australian homeowners.
Unlike traditional DC solar power systems, the Enphase IQ microinverter system provides a complete AC solution that uses no high voltage DC, ensuring a safe solar solution for homeowners. Rapid shutdown capability is built-in, with no additional equipment necessary. Enphase IQ™ microinverters meet or exceed regulatory requirements set by the U.S. National Electrical Code (NEC), which currently represents the international solar safety benchmark the Australian solar industry is working to achieve.
Make the smart choice for your home and family
Whether it’s avoiding the cloud of doubt cast over the safety of traditional DC solar systems or gaining the increase in panel-level performance delivered by Enphase microinverters – choose Enphase and ensure the sun shines on your Australian solar investment for years to come.