Shifting to solar energy is becoming more and more popular by the day. Homeowners try to integrate clean energy into their lives by constructing solar panels on their roofs.

Even though solar energy is safe, efficient, and clean compared to power plants or traditional generators, the operation and production of solar panels are not necessarily safe or ecologically friendly.

The immense popularity of solar panels often makes homeowners ignore the inherent risks of a solar panel installation on their roofs. What are these potential threats that solar panels pose? Read this article to get a better idea of what you will be investing in before you choose to buy a solar energy collector panel.

What Are Solar Panels?

All the energy that we get from the sun is known as “solar energy.” It carries immense potential and is an eternal source of energy that is useful for day-to-day living.

Solar panels convert this light from the sun into electricity, which will further power electrical loads. Panels have various applications such as remote power systems for cabins, remote sensing, and electricity production by commercial and residential solar electric systems.

Are Solar Panels Dangerous?

Solar Panels on RoofIt is difficult to label solar panels as overarchingly “dangerous” since they provide some undeniable benefits. However, it is important not to get swept away by these advantages and know some of the risks accompanying solar panels.

Toxicity

There is a tendency to assume that since solar panels convert sunlight into useable clean energy, environmentally clean materials probably constitute the panels themselves.

However, this is not the case. Arsenic and cadmium are the primary components used to make solar panels. The panel-making process may generate toxic and harmful byproducts, such as hexafluoride, sulfur, and silicon tetrachloride.

These dangerous byproducts are harmful to humans, domestic, and wild animals and can lead to respiratory conditions and illnesses. Moreover, they are also equally dangerous to the environment.

Electricity

Another issue that comes with solar panels is excess electricity. Any extra electricity that the solar panel produces goes straight to a battery or group of batteries. The only place to keep these batteries is inside the house.

These batteries can store up to 600 volts of direct electrical energy. Additionally, they remain charged even if after having been disconnected from the main energy collection system.

Mishandling these parts, particularly the batteries, can result in electrical damage, fires, and even possible death of human beings and animals in the vicinity of such an accident. A weak connection between these parts also poses a very real threat and can lead to similar life-threatening disasters.

Recycling Solar Waste

Much like the production of solar panels, the byproducts of their use are proving to be a recycling issue.

The biggest concern is to get rid of solar panels that are no longer functional. Throwing them into landfills is only a temporary solution.

If the landfills start to overflow, the used solar panels pose a severe threat to human life and the environment. Many countries are mandating that used solar panels have to undergo recycling, but this is still a process in the works, and there is a long way to go.

Installing Solar Panels

The process of installing the entire solar panel structure can be difficult since the panels are quite heavy. They are awkward to lift, and if done wrong, may result in strains, sprains, back injuries, or muscle pulls. There is the possibility of spine injury.

The solar panels also heat up within a short period when exposed to sunlight. That may lead to burns if one does not exercise caution while handling them.

However, with specific safety measures in place, you can avoid these injuries and risks:

  • Apply safe lifting techniques and ensure that at least two people are lifting each solar panel.
  • Use forklifts and mobile carts to transport the solar panels around the worksite (if required).
  • Avoid climbing ladders with a solar panel in your hands. To get the panel onto the roof, use fully functioning and tested cranes, ladder-based winch systems, or hoists.
  • After the unpacking of the panels, cover them up with an opaque sheet to prevent overheating.
  • Ensure that you wear gloves at all times while handling solar panels.

Dangerous Components

Solar Panels on RoofLike most modern innovations and appliances, solar panels have a few components that are susceptible to failure and subsequent harm. For example, all solar panels will contain fuses, wiring, and switches.

If you find that these dangerous elements are not working according to expectations, get rid of them immediately and replace them with new parts that match the required standards.
Malfunctioning wires and switches carry the potential risk of electric shock and possibly even a fire breakout.

Earthing

While installing your solar panel system, you have two options – either you can connect it to an existing network or make it an entirely independent structure.

Whether you choose an existing network or an independent structure, your solar panels have to undergo the process of grounding. If you choose to skip this safety precaution or brush it aside as unimportant, your solar panel is at risk of electrical malfunction.

If you experience an electrical malfunction with your solar panel, your other electrical appliances may get damaged, particularly if they are all connected to an existing shared network. It may even lead to a fire.

Production of Greenhouse Gases

One of the most common byproducts of using a solar panel is nitrogen trifluoride, known to be about 17,000 times more capable than carbon dioxide at trapping solar energy.

The production of solar panels releases large amounts of nitrogen trifluoride, along with sulfur hexafluoride, which is the most potent greenhouse gas out of them all.

Manufacturers try to ensure that the process of solar panel production traps these harmful gases. However, any break in the confinement of the gases could lead to severe environmental damage and pose a risk to human and animal health.

Arc Faults and the Danger of Fire

Just like any other electrical system, fire is a hazard with solar panel systems. One of the most common causes of fire stemming from solar panels is electrical arc faults. These are high discharges of electricity between two or more conductors.

Solar PanelsThe heat released during this potential discharge may lead to a deterioration of the wire insulation, causing a spark or “arc” that will lead to a fire breakout.

Arc faults are of two types – series and parallel. A series arc fault occurs by the disruption in the continuity of a conductor. A parallel arc fault may come up when unintended current passes through conductors, possibly due to an error in grounding. Solar panels are subject to both.

To prevent a fire outbreak caused by arc faults, you may consider installing an arc fault circuit interrupter or circuit breaker. These devices can detect low-level arcing currents that pose a threat, and they will shut off the outlet entirely. That reduces the chances of an electrical fire caused by an arc fault.

Risk of Explosions

Since the solar panel carries medium to high-level voltages of electricity, there is also the risk of an arc flash. During an arc flash, hot gases and radiant energy release into the air and can reach up to four times the temperature of the sun’s surface.

It generally occurs when a large amount of energy is available to an arc fault. To reduce the risk of explosions caused by arc flash, consider using multiple string inverters instead of one or two large central inverters. These require combiner boxes, but with simultaneous AC and DC mitigation, you can avoid the risk of ark flash.

Explosions may also take place when the battery gets wet. Lead batteries are known to explode if they come in contact with water.

Issues on the Rooftop

The last point for you to consider before installing your solar panels is the difficulty maneuvering around the rooftop that these structures create.

Firefighters report that they have a hard time moving around on rooftops with solar panels installed on them, which delays the firefighting team’s emergency responsiveness.

Many firefighters also state that switching off solar panels is often a challenge because simple exposure to light keeps them energized. Under such circumstances, it becomes difficult to put out a fire due to these logistical issues posed by solar panels.

Conclusion

While going solar is applaudable and a step forward in the world of clean energy, it is necessary for you to remember all the points mentioned in this article so that you can make the most of your solar panels.

Risk is an inherent part of installing solar panels, and they will always pose a threat with the possibility of electrical shocks or fire breakouts.

However, if you exercise caution, you can easily ensure that your solar panel undergoes a safe installation with no room for possible danger. Hopefully, this article could answer a few of your queries regarding the safety of solar panels and how to mitigate threats!