What to do when the weather hits?

Even a well-mounted solar array can sucumb to high winds as ReNew reader William Barnett’s system did a few years ago.

There are a number of steps you can take to make your renewable energy systems safe in a natural disaster, writes Sasha Shtargot.

It never rains but it pours. That was the unfortunate reality in many parts of Australia this summer. Cyclone Yasi struck Queensland weeks after floods cut a swathe across a large part of the state. In Victoria, record rainfall deluged communities in successive months. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, bushfires broke out in parts of southern WA, an area experiencing an extended dry spell.

In the new era of climate change we are told to brace for a more erratic climate, so what can be done to protect household renewable energy systems in extreme weather?

For Daryl Douglass, the ATA’s Cairns branch convenor, Yasi was the fourth cyclone he had experienced in far north Queensland. Fortunately, this time his home in Kuranda, near Cairns, was spared the full force of the category 5 storm. Daryl says the main concern for people in cyclone-prone areas is to have solar PV and hot water systems held down strongly enough to withstand extreme wind. People need to ensure installers fit their systems on cyclone-rated mounted frames with suitable brackets.

‘The last thing you need when you’re sheltering in your toilet from a cyclone is to have a solar hot water tank come down from the roof on top of you—those things weigh a ton,’ Daryl says.

Equally important in preparing for a cyclone, Daryl says, is to clear vegetation away from the house. Falling trees and branches are one of the main hazards created by hurricane wind gusts.

Mick Harris, an experienced installer and owner of the Enviro Shop in Melbourne, says grid-connected solar PV and hot water systems are very robust and generally safe in extreme weather. If grid power goes down, a grid interactive inverter will shut down. As a safety precaution before a flood or other extreme event, Mick says, the inverter AC mains isolator (usually in the meter box) and the PV array isolator (usually next to the inverter) can be manually switched off. ‘Inverters are very safe beasts. If anything goes wrong, they shut down,’ Mick says.

Read the full article in ReNew 115

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