Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Moar Green Energy "Success"

This time sent in by #1 blogdaughter, not Brad_in_MA!

Firefighters alarmed by latest rescue risk: solar panels
Firefighters across the nation are alarmed at the prospect of battling blazes in buildings topped with solar panels, which can create new risks of roofs collapsing, an inability to gain footing and even potential electric shock.

Two recent fires involving structures decked with solar panels have triggered complaints from fire chiefs and calls for new codes and regulations that reflect the dangers posed by the clean-energy devices. A two-alarm fire last week at a home in Piedmont, Calif., prompted Piedmont Fire Chief Warren McLaren to say the technology “absolutely” made it harder on firefighters. Weeks earlier, in Delanco, N.J., more than 7,000 solar panels on the roof of a massive 300,000-square foot warehouse factored into Delanco Fire Chief Ron Holt’s refusal to send his firefighters onto the roof of a Dietz & Watson facility.
Now, call me crazy, but I would think that the extra weight should be taken into consideration when putting the panels on the roof. Then again, I'm just a regular guy, not a green energy crusader, so things like load-bearing weight and fail points are above my pay grade to understand and implement. Apparently the greenies aren't too concerned with firefighter access or the inability to shut off the panels in case of a fire, and it's up to the building code to catch up.

Problem is, the fire fighters already have a solution: let it burn. They're not about to risk their lives fighting a fire if they can't access the roof because it's completely covered with solar panels, so bye-bye building in that case. How green are you now that you have to completely rebuild and replace everything? The real world will intrude - whether it's fighting a fire in a building with solar panels or protected wildlife being turned into eagle salad by wind power.

Then again, as the saying goes, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few endangered condor eggs...

That is all.


Matthew said...

No lives at risk, hard to justify sending the firemen into a building that deliberately created a hazard without also mitigating it.

Ross said...

Mmm... Condor omelets.

Jim said...

I'm certified in the sales of Certain-Teed Solar Shingle Systems, so I can add a smidge of qualified knowledge to the fray.

Most panel systems don't add terribly to the roof loading. Newer solar panels aren't half the weight of the ones 15 or 20 years ago.

That said, you sure can die, right quick too, from the toxic fumes those puppies belch forth when dancing merrily in the flames.

Not only do you not want to try to scale a roof bearing such panels in a fire situation, but you DO NOT WANT TO BE DOWNWIND of the smoke from 'em, no way, no how.

And neither do the firefighters.

Sunk New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Anonymous said...

Made a red tailed hawk omelet once with my inner thigh while riding my '79 KZ650. Hurt like heck!

Wait, did I just date myself?

Ruth said...

Having recently had solar panels installed I can say that before the town would give us a permit we had to pay for a structural engineer to come out and assess the house and confirm that it would hold the weight of the solar panels. We also have a ground level shut off thats easily accessable from outside the building (you'd need bolt cutters if you didn't have the key, but its there and accessable). But then my county has been very "pro green energy" for several years now, so I'm not hugely surprised they've already adapted building codes to fit.

Having said that, I can totally believe that if the structure caught fire the weight of the panels (which honestly isn't that much individually, I can lift them) might make the roof collapse sooner than it would otherwise.

Geodkyt said...

Another issue with solar panels, especially on slanted roofs, that is not, to the best of my knowledge, considered by installers (especially DIY guys) --

What happens when the roof structure around the attachment points burns through enough to allow the panel to break free on all but one corner? Yup, think "flaming windshield wipers in Hell". Which then likely rip loose the last attachment point at just past the nadir of the downswing. . .