Residents in flooded areas have been warned to be especially cautious around solar panel installations that have been inundated.
Master Electricians Australia Chief Executive Malcolm Richards yesterday stated solar panels could continue to generate electricity during flood events – even if mains electricity had been cut and even if the panels have been switched off at the switchboard.
The Clean Energy Council (CEC) also warned people not to attempt to operate a solar power system that has been affected by floods. The CEC states householders should not attempt to switch off their solar power system if any of the components are covered in water or if parts of the system are still wet.
In regard to systems that have been inundated, the CEC advises people should not attempt to operate any switches after the waters recede. Residual moisture from the floodwaters may have caused a solar power system to become live, even if mains electricity is still out in an area.
The CEC has produced a basic safety bulletin to provide information that can be downloaded here (PDF).
According to national solar power solutions provider Energy Matters, water that may have entered the inverter and/or isolator enclosures will prevent safe switching of the solar array and may result in fire, a chance of burns from hot water, or electric shock.
Energy Matters says systems it has installed feature roof top isolators, allowing a solar power system to be more easily and safely shut down compared to systems that only have one isolator next to the inverter, which are more likely to be submerged.