Photovoltaic Panel Safety Testing - Why is it Important?
Along with the push to use environmentally sound building elements comes the need for those items to be verifiably safe. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has moved into safety testing of solar photovoltaic panels by opening three dedicated facilities since 2008, including the largest facility in Europe, in Franfurt, Germany.
Underwriters Laboratories became well known for evaluating, testing and certifying electrical products and components starting in 1894. Currently Underwriters Laboratories is also working to develop standards in the area of solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies. The trusted UL label is available for the United States and Canada, and Underwriters Laboratories is also working with other industry leaders to coordinate its standards with the global International Electro-technical Commission (IEC) standards.
Why is certification needed? Solar photovoltaic panels are devices that convert sunlight to electricity by way of semiconducting materials. The panels are only part of the system, since auxiliary equipment to connect the panels to the building wiring or to the electrical grid is also essential. The photovoltaic panels are tested for exposure to hail, rain and the extremes of outdoor elements, but if the connections to the electrical system are improperly installed, problems can occur. Recent news events such as the fire at a British Petroleum facility have raised questions. Although safety issues with solar photovoltaic panels have been rare, they may increase as the technology becomes widely used.