The California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA) is committed to the safety of the products we manufacture and install throughout California. With over a million solar photovoltaic systems installed to date, the overwhelming majority of which operate without incident, some for over thirty years, it is well established that solar photovoltaic systems that are properly designed, installed, and maintained have a long track record of fire and system safety. There are several government-regulated steps that are in place today to ensure public safety of solar energy systems. This brief memo is designed to give consumers and policy makers a better understanding of those steps.
First, before a technology can come to market, including solar modules, racking systems, inverters, and batteries, international panels of safety experts develop international codes and standards to which all manufacturers and installers must adhere. Manufactured products are then tested and certified by Nationally Recognized Test Laboratories such as UL. These labs, which are Occupational Safety and Health Services (OSHA) certified, test the key components of the solar energy system to ensure that they are all fire-resistant and safe for homes and businesses when properly installed.
Second, local building departments inspect all solar energy installations to ensure the different components of a solar system are properly installed and safe for operation. Before a contractor can even begin to install a solar project on a home or business, local building departments determine if the contractor has the skills and knowledge to properly construct the solar system including verification that the contractor is properly licensed by the Contractor State License Board. Becoming a licensed contractor requires years of documented experience as well as an exam on trade related knowledge including safety codes and standards.
Third, after the building department determines the installer is licensed to do the installation, they review the contractor’s plans to ensure the system complies with applicable electrical, fire, structural, and other building codes.
Fourth, with permission to construct a solar system in hand, the contractor may proceed with the installation phase. During installation, solar contractors have an obligation to ensure all members of their crew have sufficient product and safety knowledge. To meet these requirements, installers attend regular trainings offered by product manufacturers and other third-party training programs to learn how to correctly install solar products to protect the consumer’s investment and avoid safety hazards.
Fifth, before the solar system can be turned on to start generating power for the home or business, the local building department inspects the work to verify that the installation matches the submitted plans and has been installed safely.
Lastly, the local electric utility also reviews the solar system to ensure all local utility interconnection rules and safety procedures have been followed. It is only after this final step, that the local utility allows the solar system to be turned on.
Throughout the life of the system, contractors and other qualified persons perform periodic inspections to maintain the solar system, ensuring continued safe operation.
By following the above practices, the solar industry has installed millions of solar systems that operate safely and without incident. CALSSA is committed to the installation of safe solar systems manufactured to code, installed by licensed contractors following manufacturer's instructions, codes, standards, and installation best practices, and finally permitted, inspected, and approved by local officials. By following these steps, solar energy systems can operate safely for many years, providing clean, renewable electricity, beneficial for a healthier energy future.