WEBSTER GROVES, MO (KMOX) – Earlier this month, a solar panel on the roof of Webster Groves High School caused a two alarm fire. Caleb Arthur, owner of Missouri Sun Solar, says solar panel fires are rare but can happen because they generate energy.
The solar panels put out DC electricity and wires carry it to a box that transfers the power into AC electricity. Arthur says the fire was likely caused by a faulty wire in the junction box that houses the wires.
“You have a wire, then you have a plastic that covers that wire. It’s like a hard rubberized plastic,” Arthur says. “If anything was ever to cut into that or touch it, it can actually short out just like if you have ever seen a wire hit something and sparks go flying, that’s mostly what can happen with a solar panel.”
Arthur adds that the panels have breakers and fuses in the systems to prevent shortages from happening but it is still a possibility.
Solar panel maintenance and inspections follow the rules of the National Electric Code.
“There is something called the National Electric Code, the NEC Code, that everyone is supposed to follow for solar panel safety and St. Louis County goes above and beyond that, and when we do our installs they check the connections; they look at everything,” Arthur says. “So, for something to happen as it did on that school you have to kind of look at some point there might have been some kind of failure in the solar panel.”
It is unclear how often the Webster Groves High School inspects the solar panels.
Solar panel fires can also cause a high risk of electrocution for firefighters working with the panels.