Slight problem with solar panels exposed by recent Albuquerque fire

Solar ranks right up there with mom and apple pie among many who believe that it is the power source of our future. Unfortunately, a recent incident right here in Albuquerque, highlighted an under-appreciated problem with solar panels: fire. In fact, the Taylor Ranch Community Center which is not far from my house had a fire on Friday that seems to have been caused by the panels on the building’s roof (per KOB TV below).

Although an exact understanding of the scope of solar panel fires was difficult to find, it is a relatively common problem caused by manufacturing flaws. Solar panel fires can be particularly challenging for first-responders because the panels may remain electrified even as they (or the building burns).

Thankfully, in the case of the Taylor Ranch fire, there is a fire house literally across the street and apparently the fire fighters were on the spot quickly, but the gym floor is likely ruined. I wonder how a fire like this impacts the net carbon situation when it comes to these solar panels?

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7 Replies to “Slight problem with solar panels exposed by recent Albuquerque fire”

  1. Last year’s fires in Australia were due to faulty circuit breakers.

    Fortunately the Solar Energy industries Assoc. says it’s uncommon for the panel itself to cause a fire. It says it may occur as a result of improper connections to the inverter.

    1. Sure, problems are “rare,” but we are supposed to live in constant fear that a nuclear plant will have a meltdown, it would seem appropriate that fires associated with solar panels be considered as well. That’s especially true due to the added carbon emissions required by, in this case, a new gym floor, the fire itself, and all of the emergency vehicles required to put the fire out. It is also worth noting that solar is a small fraction of our electricity. It would seem that the incidence of fires will only grow if solar becomes a serious source of electricity.

  2. Comparing the vulnerability to fire of a nuclear plant to a rooftop solar panel installation is absurd. Nuke plants are thousands of times more complex than a simple rooftop PV system. The problem at the activity center will be investigated down to the most minor detail and the solar industry will adjust accordingly.

    Back in the days when jet travel was expensive and rare, they were crashing planes into each other and one could project that if jet travel expanded by 1000X there would be a major crash every week. Didn’t happen. Why? The industry learned its lessons and revamped its reliability focus. That is happening in the solar industry now as it ramps up to replace coal and nukes.

    PV solar is replacing the old ways, whether that is good for the banks, bondholders, shareholders or PNM management is irrelevant. All the fear mongering about rare PV fires is misplaced and desperate. If I were a nuke proponent I’d be watching the low level saga unfolding at WIPP. That should give you something to fear if you must do that. WIPP has failed its 10,000 year test about as fast it took its proponents to escape the senate unscathed.

    We are going solar, get over it.

    1. If solar has solved its price, storage, density, and workmanship issues, we should immediately eliminate the RPS and all tax credits and subsidies geared towards it. All subsidies for “clean coal” should be abandoned as well as other subsidies for fossil fuels. I would be thrilled to have solar dominate electricity production if it can truly compete on its own merits.

  3. Agree on eliminating ALL subsidies. “Merits” must include health and environmental advantages. The health care system is subsidizing fossil electricity.

    Direct subsidies are designed to centrally control an industry, so that when the time comes the central authority can kill it. We who have been in the solar industry for 4 decades know how this works.

    PV for residences is a no brainer. Storage has been used for decades. When PNM raises small user rates 40% under their current rate proposal, it will make people realize it’s time. Industry still needs to figure it out, but they will, because as the small users go off grid, industry rates cannot stay at 5 cents per kWh.

    1. There is no way to accurately calculate health and environmental advantages. That is the wiggle room the left uses to keeps subsidies flowing to their preferred “renewable” sources. Even asthma, which environmental groups in New Mexico have been promoting as being a result of coal-fired power plants is largely a genetic issue.

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