The growing popularity of residential solar panels and the inability to de-energize them between the panel and the breaker makes life dangerous for firefighters. It was this treat that spurred the U.S. Fire Administration to develop a device to test for energized solar panels.
So far, there is only one of the devices and it is being used in Frederick County, Maryland.
“This is the first of its kind in the world, the only one that exists right now,” Larry McKenna, a fire protection engineer with USFA who worked on a solar panel safety study, told News 4.
Much like current hot sticks, this prototype stick-like detector lights up when it comes in contact electric current. Once testing is complete, USFA will license the technology to the private sector for wide-scale manufacture.
Fire officials in the Washington D.C. area say that other issues with solar panels are recognizing the threat and having guidelines and procedures for handling them on scene.
“I don’t know that we’ve had a very specific training on specific systems at this point, and that’s something that, as it continues to grow, we’re going to have to look at in the future,” Fredrick County Fire Chief Tom Owens said. “We treat everything as if it’s electrified until it’s proven that it’s not.”
Chief Owens said the new device could allow them to get to work faster rather than waiting on someone to show up who can determine if the solar panels are charged.