One in four solar panels potentially unsafe, report finds

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A national audit of rooftop solar systems has found that up to one-quarter of all installations are potentially unsafe, posing a high risk of harm or even death.

A report conducted by the Australian National Audit Office shows that between 21 and 26 per cent of small-scale solar systems inspected since 2011 were found to have faulty wiring or loose panels. Some cases posed a ‘severe risk’ where wiring was exposed or damaged.

The Federal Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, has written to the respective State Governments – who have jurisdiction over electrical safety laws – to warn that faulty solar installations could be putting lives at risk.

“We want to make sure safety comes first,” he told the Australian. “This is a rapidly growing industry and we can’t risk people’s lives.”

More than 30 installation contractors have been warned that they could potentially have their licenses suspended.

Mr Taylor noted that the solar industry is experiencing 20 per cent year-on-year growth and that the booming industry is driving increased demand for experienced installers.

“This level of growth will bring many new electricians to the industry and potentially a large number of inexperienced workers, and may also attract lower quality suppliers and unscrupulous operators,” he wrote.

Mr Taylor added that the State Governments must better manage these risks and ensure installations meet national safety standards.

“I encourage you to consider the potential risks associated with the rapid growth of rooftop solar PV in your jurisdiction, and to take appropriate action to ensure safety and consumer risks are appropriately managed,” he added.

What makes the systems unsafe?

The report said that 80 per cent of the unsafe installations were due to water getting into the direct current isolator enclosures on rooftops, but there were some instances of faulty wiring that posed an even greater risk.

The audit examined the small-scale incentive scheme under the Renewable Energy Target, which has seen over a million solar panel systems installed since the program’s inception in 2011.

One of the key recommendations made by the report is that the Clean Energy Regulator “assess the extent to which its renewable energy target scheme data shows any residual systemic electrical safety risks for small generation units installed under the scheme and inform stakeholders in the best position to effect further treatments”.

If you experience tingling or zaps in your home and suspect an electrical fault with your solar panels or otherwise, immediately contact a licensed electrician to investigate.

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