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Safety of standard ground-mounted panels

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  • Safety of standard ground-mounted panels

    My husband and I recently bought a house that came with a standard ground-mounted solar panel. We are concerned about the safety of the overall contraption when it comes to electric currents as we have a small child and a second one on the way. I've been trying to research online, but no one seems to be talking about this. I'm not sure if it is an issue or not, but here is my question:

    Is it safe to stand or sit under a standard ground mounted solar panel? Is there any risk of shock or electrocution from the actual metal frame that holds the panel together?

  • #2
    Originally posted by irontinksun View Post
    My husband and I recently bought a house that came with a standard ground-mounted solar panel. We are concerned about the safety of the overall contraption when it comes to electric currents as we have a small child and a second one on the way. I've been trying to research online, but no one seems to be talking about this. I'm not sure if it is an issue or not, but here is my question:

    Is it safe to stand or sit under a standard ground mounted solar panel? Is there any risk of shock or electrocution from the actual metal frame that holds the panel together?

    Is it safe ? without a lot of qualifiers : NO ! Is it safer than climbing a power pole and swinging on the wires ? Probably. Safety is not one of those questions that always has a dichotomous answer.

    Many building codes require fences or obstructions around ground mounts for personal protection. You may live in an area without building codes. I'd check that, because if you do and fences are required and you don't have one, that may mean you have a not permitted job. If so , that may mean other things were done non-code (and therefore maybe non-safe).

    Contravening any (possible) municipal building code fence requirements, many HOA's have CC & R's that prohibit fences or other obstructions.

    Did you have the same safety concerns when you bought the property ?

    NOMB, but if I had safety concerns, first thing I'd do is put a non climbable fence around the array and then discretely enquire as to whether or not fences are required around arrays, and then, just as discretely, determine if the array is indeed permitted.

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    • #3
      The electrical risk is largely related to the operating voltage. A typical solar panel might operate at
      below 40V, generally safe if you don't put the wires in your mouth. But several panels together may
      be wired for many times that voltage and must be treated with respect. The frame should be safely
      grounded (can be checked), but the wiring and solar surface if broken carry the voltage. Bruce Roe

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      • #4
        Ground mounts require barriers to keep people out. Just like your main panel breaker box is not open for you to make contact. Grid tie panel voltages are higher than what is inside your home. Your home wiring is 120 VAc, Grid Tied systems are 300 to 500 volts.
        MSEE, PE

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        • #5
          Originally posted by J.P.M. View Post

          Many building codes require fences or obstructions around ground mounts for personal protection. You may live in an area without building codes. I'd check that, because if you do and fences are required and you don't have one, that may mean you have a not permitted job. If so , that may mean other things were done non-code (and therefore maybe non-safe).

          Contravening any (possible) municipal building code fence requirements, many HOA's have CC & R's that prohibit fences or other obstructions.

          Did you have the same safety concerns when you bought the property ?
          Our town doesn't have an HOA, and the house passed inspection when the time came. The inspector took the solar panel into consideration at the time, so we assumed we weren't violating any rules in place.

          Based on the feedback here, however, we will certainly be looking into a fence to at least keep our small children away from playing under the array.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by irontinksun View Post

            Our town doesn't have an HOA, and the house passed inspection when the time came. The inspector took the solar panel into consideration at the time, so we assumed we weren't violating any rules in place.

            Based on the feedback here, however, we will certainly be looking into a fence to at least keep our small children away from playing under the array.
            Towns don't have HOA's, places and entities such as planned communities/developments do. Usually, an association's CC & R's exist primarily to ensure some uniformity of appearance and behavior that tries to establish some commonality.

            Putting a fence around places for safety reasons or to control access seems a good idea that's been around for a long time. I'd certainly give that some consideration.
            Last edited by J.P.M.; 07-19-2017, 01:03 PM.

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            • #7
              Besides keeping children or curious adults away from your panel wiring a fence will also help keep out the wildlife that like to chew on the wires. Some type of fence or barrier around the panels is a good idea to protect people and your system.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by SunEagle View Post
                Besides keeping children or curious adults away from your panel wiring a fence will also help keep out the wildlife that like to chew on the wires. Some type of fence or barrier around the panels is a good idea to protect people and your system.
                Will also keep kids from chewing on the wires, but that's probably not much of a concern until they start teething.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by SunEagle View Post
                  Besides keeping children or curious adults away from your panel wiring a fence will also help keep out the wildlife that like to chew on the wires.
                  Maybe alligators. I have a couple deer fawns currently taking shelter under my S array; planning
                  to run them off. Takes an 8' fence to keep them out. Bruce Roe

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by bcroe View Post

                    Maybe alligators. I have a couple deer fawns currently taking shelter under my S array; planning
                    to run them off. Takes an 8' fence to keep them out. Bruce Roe
                    LOL. I never said a short fence would work for all types of animals. I guess some will find ways over or under if they want to make the effort.

                    I have to do some research for my future ground mount system. I know there are coyotes and wild turkeys in the neighborhood so I have to keep them out.

                    Actually I have heard that alligators can dig under a loose fence.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by bcroe View Post

                      Maybe alligators. I have a couple deer fawns currently taking shelter under my S array; planning
                      to run them off. Takes an 8' fence to keep them out. Bruce Roe
                      Claymore mines with motion sensing actuators. Bonus: dinner.

                      Note: make sure you confirm directionality. The arrays will last longer.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by J.P.M. View Post

                        Claymore mines with motion sensing actuators. Bonus: dinner.

                        Note: make sure you confirm directionality. The arrays will last longer.
                        I had to put up an electric fence to keep them from eating my sunflowers. I'll do that if easier stuff fails.
                        Bruce Roe


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by J.P.M. View Post

                          Claymore mines with motion sensing actuators. Bonus: dinner.....
                          ,
                          Naw, with a claymore, you get little bits of sausage all over the place

                          Powerfab top of pole PV mount (2) | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
                          || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
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