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 range from air pollution and water pollution and fatalities to bronchitis and the exacerbation of asthma and other lung diseases in the local population.
The solar industry is in the grip of a supply chain crisis, which means sourcing components for solar farms is increasingly difficult. Solar industry supply chain disruption means sourcing replacement components is extremely challenging – consequently, protecting existing assets from damage, including fire, is crucial.
Increasing commodity prices and freight costs mean new solar projects are becoming much more expensive – consequently, solar farm operators must do all they can to protect their existing assets. In addition, the construction of solar farms is becoming an increasingly expensive business.
Solar farm installation costs are typically between $0.89 to $1.01 per watt, meaning that a 10 megawatt (MW) solar farm would cost between $8.9 and $10 million dollars to build. But additional challenges are likely to increase up-front costs for projects, squeezing project profitability.
Despite the fact that wind turbine and photovoltaic fires can be catastrophic, the clean energy industry has been slow to address fire risk. This lack of foresight is particularly surprising when you consider both the prevalence and the financial cost of fire incidents in the clean energy industry. However, research suggests that the renewables industry is greatly underestimating the level of fire risk it faces.
As global warming rises, many people turn to solar farms to combat the issue. Because solar farms do not have any harmful discharges, they do not contaminate the land, water, or air around them. This combined with how sustainable they are gives them an edge over fossil fuel usage for power. As more solar farms are created, though, you might wonder how safe these structures are. In fact, you may ask, "can solar farms catch on fire?"
Though solar farm fires are rare, they are not impossible. Any high-power electrical equipment, including a solar power plant, presents a risk for fire. The good news is that solar farm fire protection has quickly evolved along with the solar industry. Let’s talk more about what happens in the worst-case scenario when a fire does break out at a solar farm.
Fire breaking out at photovoltaic (PV) farms has the potential to be costly: on project finances, on the environment, and on the perception of solar technology. The cost of repairing assets ravaged by fire is one thing but dealing with the fall out of enraged local residents or the consequences of scorched environments could be even more tricky.
Given suspicions that solar farm fires are underreported, a new Firetrace International report highlights concerns that the solar industry may be unaware of the true extent of fire risk. Data concerning solar farm fires is in short supply. In fact, such is the lack of statistics that researchers – specifically, those at the UK’s BRE National Solar Centre – have reached the worrying conclusion that they suspect solar farm fires are being underreported.
If you’re a building owner, a business owner, or another key decision maker in an industry where the potential for fire is high, then it’s important to understand whether or not you need a fire suppression system. The fact is, in many settings, fire suppression systems are necessary to quickly detect fire and automatically activate—before equipment or employees are put in harm’s way.
When fires ignite in wind turbines, speed is of the essence for suppressing the flames. We’ve noted in a previous blog about how long it takes for a wind turbine fire to cause irreparable damage and concluded then that the straightforward answer is that it doesn’t take long at all. It’s a matter of minutes before a faulty electrical component or overheated gearbox ignites a fire that leads to total destruction.
An electrical fire is one that starts due to an electrical failure or malfunction. While these incidents generate flames and heat like any other fire, it’s important to know you can’t use water to put out these flames. Using water while the power is still on can cause you to be electrocuted. And even when the power is off, water may damage the wiring, electronics, or machinery that was the source of the fire.