|Fires in Photovoltaic Systems: Lessons Learned from Fire Investigations in Italy|
Issue 99: Fires in Photovoltaic Systems: Lessons Learned from Fire Investigations in Italy
By Luca Fiorentini, Luca Marmo, Enrico Danzi and Vincenzo Puccia
This article will assess some of the fire risks associated with of PV
system installations based on fire investigations conducted in Italy.
The losses that have resulted from these events could have been
reduced by implementing a risk analysis approach in the early design
stages of these installations. This should include evaluating the fire
risk of the most common failures associated with a PV installation, such
as cell mismatch, DC arcing, and localized fires in connection boxes or
At the same time, in Italy there was a short time period for building
owners to access the public incentives. This resulted in compression in
the timing for engineering, procurement, and construction of these
projects, which resulted in the lack of standardization for the specific
PV materials. This along with the inexperience of installers led to an
undervaluation of the fire risk associated the PV system and the
building housing the installation.
Table 1 refers to the number of incidents related to fires of various
magnitudes that involved, but not necessary started from, PV system
installations in Italy. The analysis of the data shows the number of
fires peaked in 2012 following the first wave of installations. Since
these fires involved new installations, the lack of qualifications of
designers/installers played a role in these fires. This included the
incorrect management of shading, the exposure of plant components to
substandard conditions (heavy water condensation under the panels), low
quality components, crushing of cables during the installation,
under-evaluation of typical DC current behavior, and mismatch of PV
Additionally as shown in Table 1, after 2012 the number of fires
involving PV system installations has dropped as the market for
PV-related services decreased. This has led to a better qualified
workforce to install these systems. At the same time, better product
standards and an increase in national regulations have also helped.
Moreover, after the first relevant fires occurred, most PV panels
producers started to include fire resistance requirements in the
Figures 5A, 5B and 5C – A fire involving a PV system produced citizen concerns in regards to pollution and public safety.
Additionally, PV plant components on a roof or on a building façade could:
Based on the results of investigations of fires that occurred in PV
system installation in Italy, there is a need for a comprehensive review
of the fire and building code requirements for PV roof installations.
Specifically, these requirements should address combustible insulating
and roof materials located below active PV system components.
Luca Fiorentini is with Tecsa Srl, Luca Marmo is with Politecnico
di Torino, Enrico Danzi is with Politecnico di Torino, and Vincenzo
Puccia is with National Fire Corps.
3rd Quarter 2013 – The Application of Fire Risk Assessment in Building Design and Management -- David A. Charters, Ph.D., BRE Global
While for the vast majority of history, fire risks have not been assessed for the design of buildings, the author explains that assessment is catching on as a way to avoid the many and varied fatality fire disasters that have occurred in the past. He explains other reasons why fire risk assessment is gaining traction as well, and covers qualitative, semi-quantitative, and quantitative assessment methods. READ MORE
3rd Quarter 2013 -- Fire Protection Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance and Building Fire Risk -- Francisco Joglar, Ph.D., Hughes Associates
This article describes how inspection, testing, and maintenance of fire protection can be incorporated into a building fire risk model so that such activities can be managed on a performance-based approach in specific applications. The author defines "fire risk” for the purpose of this article as a quantitative measure of the potential for realization of unwanted fire consequences. He also explains how maintenance issues factor into the risk equation. READ MORE
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