Wednesday, April 21

ENERGY: Solar fire raises questions about panel safety

ENERGY: Solar fire raises questions about panel safety

A small house fire caused by a solar panel in San Diego last week exposed a potentially dangerous flaw in the building codes of many cities across California, which is pushing for tens of thousands of homeowners to install the generating systems on their rooftops.

Experts say that in most cities, installers are not required to place a switch on the roof to cut power from panels in an emergency ---- leaving firefighters unable to put out certain fires and helpless to stop dangerous amounts of electricity from flowing along wires as long as the sun is shining. Temecula, which requires a separate shut-off, appears to be the sole local exception.

Amy Pavis had a solar-powered electrical fire on her Lake Murray-area home on Wednesday, and it wouldn't go out.

Fed by electricity from her rooftop solar panels, the fire smoldered for hours despite repeated applications of a household fire extinguisher and the efforts of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. Only after an electrician arrived to cut the wires leading from the panels were the flames put down for good.