Solar panel safety
NSW Fair Trading has prepared a list of frequently asked questions and answers about solar panel safety. Other documents relating to solar panel installation safety are available below to view or download in PDF format:
Many people in NSW may be thinking about installing photovoltaic (PV) systems (solar panels) on their property and there are a number of things that should first be considered.
The installation of solar panels must be undertaken by either a licensed builder or a licensed electrical contractor (or the holder of an electrical qualified supervisor certificate who is an employee of this contractor). Check the licence details of any builder or electrical contractor by going to the Fair Trading website or by calling 13 32 20.
If you wish to claim any State or Federal Government rebates for the installation of solar panels, you should ensure the installer you use is accredited by the Clean Energy Council. Failure to use an accredited installer may disqualify you from a rebate scheme. A list of accredited installers is available on the Clean Energy Council website www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au.
If you use a builder to do the installation part of this work, they will need to subcontract to an electrical contractor to undertake the wiring part.
The wiring of the solar panel installation must be undertaken by someone holding an electrical contractor licence or an electrical qualified supervisor certificate.
Check the licence details of any electrical contractor or electrical qualified supervisor by going to the Fair Trading website or by calling 13 32 20.
If the installed and wired solar panels are then to be connected to the electricity distribution network, this work must be undertaken by a person accredited under the Accredited Service Provider Scheme (ASP). An ASP is an electrical contractor accredited to work on parts of the electricity network, including metering. The ASP scheme is managed by Industry and Investment NSW and a list of ASP's and their contact details is published on their website www.industry.nsw.gov.au.
The installation of an alternate power supply to your home may mean that the existing electrical wiring work will need to be upgraded. Before committing to installing a new system ensure that you secure at least three quotes from qualified electrical contractors. This will assist in identifying any hidden costs.
Prior to signing the contract for the installation of renewable energy equipment under the NSW Government’s Solar Bonus Scheme, seek a quote from an Accredited Service Provider for any additional costs relating to the installation of electricity meters on your installation.
The NSW Government's Solar Bonus Scheme was closed to new applications on 28 April 2011. For further information, go to the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services website.
Before paying any money for the supply and installation of solar panels, or allowing any installation work to commence, you must ensure that your installer gives you:
The installer must not deduct the amount of any rebate you may be entitled to from the total cost of the work in order to suggest to you that the cost of the work is less than $20,000 and therefore they do not have to take out insurance under the Fund. They must provide you with an insurance certificate where the contract price is over $20,000 or, if the contract price is not known, the reasonable market cost of the labour and materials involved is over $20,000. Any rebate you may claim for the installation must not be deducted from the cost of the work for the purpose of avoiding the $20,000 threshold for insurance under the Fund.
Under NSW home building law, the maximum deposit that you can be asked to pay is 10%.
If the work is required to be covered by insurance under the Home Building Compensation Fund, it is illegal for the contractor to ask for a deposit or other payment under the contract unless this insurance has been taken out for your job and a certificate of the insurance is given to you.
Any system installed in, on, or around your premises, whether connected to the electricity grid or in a 'stand-alone' situation, must be compliant with Australian standards.
Failure to install approved solar panels and inverters may disqualify you from a rebate scheme. The Clean Energy Council publishes a list of approved solar panels and inverters on their website www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au.
Ideally, your solar panels should be installed so that they face north, but never to the south. Trees can drop leaves and cast a shadow on the panels. They, and other structures, should be considered by the installer when putting in the system to ensure that the system is efficient. Keep in mind that trees can grow higher and shade your panels in the future.
Adverse weather conditions, such as strong winds, can affect solar panel and wind turbine installations. Check with your installer that the proposed system will be suitable for the weather conditions in your location.
You need to also make sure that your installer has satisfied important safety considerations.
Most 'stand-alone' systems and some grid connected installations have batteries forming part of the system. Hydrogen gas is released during the charging process of the batteries. Hydrogen is a flammable gas.
All flames and equipment that could create a spark, eg controllers with relays, should be kept away from the batteries. The batteries should be kept in a well ventilated area. No electrical equipment should be installed above the batteries unless in a suitably designed enclosure.
Signage must be erected to alert people to the location of the system installed in your premises, particularly on all distribution boards (switchboards). This is important for service and tradespeople, and for any emergency services personnel who may attend your premises.
After completion of the installation work, a licensed electrician must check that your system is safe and if so, provide you with a Certificate of Compliance. This is your assurance that a licensed contractor has completed and tested the work to ensure it is effective and compliant with Australian wiring rules for electrical installation work. You should ensure that the electrician completes the certificate for submission to the proper authority and that you receive a copy before they leave your property.
Also ensure that you receive adequate documentation on how to use your system. It should include a list of all equipment supplied, a shutdown and isolation procedure in case of emergency or maintenance, system connection diagrams and handbooks for all of the equipment installed in the system.
The key points to remember are:
Remember, your contracted builder or electrician must:
If your contract is with a builder only, they must also:
If your contract is with an electrical contractor they must also:
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