As buildings look towards the use alternative fuels for power generation and consumption, the installation of photovoltaic (PV) systems is rapidly increasing. NFPA 1, Fire Code, provides requirements for PV systems primarily to address fire fighter safety during suppression operations.
While PV systems offer an efficient and "green" alternative for energy generation, they also present unique hazards to building occupants and fire fighters, and can pose life-threatening risks to people on the roofs of buildings, such as maintenance personnel, or fire fighters conducting ventilation operations during suppression and rescue efforts.
Section 11.12 of NFPA 1 provides safety requirements for building-mounted PV installations with a focus on two areas: marking (220.127.116.11) and access (18.104.22.168). Section 11.12.3 provides general safety requirements for clearance and security for personnel who might be in the proximity of ground-mounted PV installations.
Proper marking of PV installations is needed to provide emergency responders with appropriate warning and guidance with respect to working around and isolating the solar electric system. Providing the necessary marking can assist in identifying charged lines and system components which could pose a severe risk for fire fighters.
Safe access to roofs is necessary for fire fighter operations, such as ventilation. NFPA 1 addresses the need to provide safe access points and pathways through and around the PV arrays so that fire fighter operations are not interrupted and can be conducted in a safe manner.
Above all, PV systems must be in accordance with NFPA 70, National Electrical Code, where users can find additional requirements on the systems.
Users may view the current edition of both NFPA 1 and NFPA 70 for free online. NFPA also offers a plethora of research reports, proceedings, and other resources about PV installations, safety, and technology.