A fire at a solar farm can result in pollution as well as posing a serious threat to human life and health – consequently it’s vital you protect your solar project from fire risk.
A fire at a solar farm can have devastating consequences for the surrounding environment. This is in addition to the obvious risks fires pose to human health. The damage can include air pollution, water pollution, fatalities, bronchitis, the exacerbation of asthma, and other lung diseases in the local population.
How Big Can Solar Fires Get?
Despite studies showing that the prevalence of solar farm fires may be underreported, there have been known instances of fire events in the solar sector that have caused significant damage to the surrounding environment.
Have you ever wondered what happens when a solar farm catches on fire? Well, earlier this year there was a solar farm fire in Australia that resulted in the loss of an area of grassland totaling five hectares, which is roughly equivalent to 12 NFL football fields. In this instance, it took the local fire department an hour and a half to get fire under control. With the remoteness of many solar farm locations, it can be challenging for firefighters to get to the scene of a fire in a short timeframe.
What Damage Can Solar Farm Fires Do to the Surrounding Environment?
Here are three ways in which a solar farm fire could cause serious damage to the surrounding environment and the local population:
1. Polluted Water Supply
Stormwater runoff has been highlighted as one of the most noticeable impacts of forest fires. After vegetation has been destroyed by fire, the ground’s soil becomes hydrophobic – meaning it is unable to absorb water. This means debris and sediment is transported into larger bodies of water, resulting in the pollution of local supplies. Filtering such water sources is often costly and time-consuming.
2. Poor Air Quality
For example, if a forest burns, then large amounts of smoke are released into the atmosphere. This smoke includes microscopic particles – often less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, or around one-seventieth the size of a human hair. These particles are so small that our bodies find it difficult to filter them out of our airways. Consequently, they get lodged deep in our lungs.
3. Serious Damage to Human Health
The World Health Organization (WHO) has highlighted how forest fires can have a major impact on mortality and morbidity depending on the size, speed, and proximity of the fire. The WHO says young children, pregnant women, and older adults are the most susceptible to “health impacts” from smoke and ash. In addition, the WHO explains that smoke and ash from wildfires can greatly affect "those with pre-existing respiratory diseases or heart disease." Meanwhile, as well as fatalities, wildfires can cause burns, decreased lung function, pulmonary inflammation, bronchitis, exacerbation of asthma, and exacerbation of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart failure.
How You Can Reduce Solar Farm Fire Risk
Given that fires at solar farms pose significant danger to environmental and human health, solar farm operators must do all they can to protect their renewables from fire risk. There are a few ways to stay safe from fire in addition to integrating fire suppression systems and fire risk assessments.
- Make certain independent third parties regularly test solar systems
- Integrate additional safety components at your solar panel farm
- Establish standardized quality assurance measures
- Replace defective or prematurely aged components
With the challenges of the solar supply chain and current solar prices, it's important to take action and prevent the worst-case scenario from occurring.