The French company GMV based in the Isère department developped an innovative technology which enables you to control the voltage of every solar panel separately. This means: risk-free maintenance!
Photovoltaic installations are permanently powered, causing problems when working on them, or even in the vicinity. "We developed a system when we realized that there was a regulatory gap on the direct current part of photovoltaic installations," explains David Cacioppola, co-owner of GMV Industrie. "Fire safety is at the heart of our business. However, there was nothing on the market other than micro inverters for solar panels or placing tarpaulins on the collectors to prevent them from producing electricity. But in the event of a fire, these solutions are ineffective. So we needed a system that lowered the voltage of the solar panels and offered a certain resistance to fire," he continues. Because professionals report cases of electric firefighters during interventions on live photovoltaic generators.
A system first intended for retrofitting
The system developed by the Isère SME therefore takes this safety aspect into account before the inverter. "We worked with the fire brigade to draw up specifications," says David Cacioppola. "Three criteria were decisive: fire resistance according to an ISO curve at 834°C, the time for fire soldiers to intervene; the presence of an external fuse button, located in the technical room or near the solar installation; and finally, the addition of a visual mark indicating that it is possible to intervene on the panels. After having developed its system, the small company turned to the National Centre for Prevention and Protection (CNPP), which recommended following the Apsad D20 reference document "Photovoltaic processes" Technical document for building safety, published in February 2013. In practical terms, the "CGMV" system is formed by the combination of a manual triggering control device, accessible from the ground to responders (maintenance agents or firefighters), and switching devices connected to photovoltaic modules with operating indication diodes. The emergency stop button isolates each module individually and stops the generator's energy production (direct current part). This operation allows watering in the event of a fire, safety for maintenance or in the event of flooding, without risk for the workers. The system allows a simplified stop and restart: the unlocking of the stop button restarts the generator. The product offered by GMV secures interventions on solar devices that generally do not have a shutdown system as close to the modules as possible and generate a risk of electrification or electrocution.
An investment compensated by lower insurance fees
For the time being, CGMV has been installed in six private homes. "The system is indicated for existing solar installations. But we are now working on tenders for solar farms and we are thinking of new construction, in pre-equipment, directly on the production lines of photovoltaic panels," says David Cacioppola. But what about the cost? "It is now necessary to count on one or two years of solar production of overcurrent, i.e. about 2,500€. But, in return, it is possible to lower your insurance policy since the fire risk is reduced," concludes the co-owner of GMV Industrie. The company, which has suffered like the rest of the photovoltaic industry, because of the moratorium, now hopes that future regulation will make its innovation indispensable.