How can Solar Panels affect my insurance coverage?
Solar panels are a great way to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels as well as a way to earn a little cash for your business. However, before you install solar panels there are some issues that deserve your consideration. Businesses are turning to alternative power sources and there are risks associated with these emerging technology and the exposures they create. Whether you are installing a solar panel array, leasing space to a contractor installing an array for another customer, or already have an array it is important to understand the risk exposure.
The top 5 risk exposures from roof mounted Photovoltaic (PV) systems are the blind spot, roof loading, severe weather, wind and fire hazards. The blind spot, is which a ground fault to the grounded current-carrying conductor occurs undetected. This then causes a second ground fault in the panel array and the ground fault detector/interrupter can not de-energize. This causes serious electrical shock and fire. The roof is designed to accommodate a pre-determined load; if the road can not support the solar array it could lead to structural degradation or collapse over time. The weight of snow or ice on to of the load of the solar panels may be more than anticipated also it could crack the panels’ protective coating, exposing live electrical components. Wind can cause damage to space below the panels can cause pressurization that cam damage the roof.
Prior to installation of the solar panels, make sure to work with your insurance agent to discuss the risks and how you can minimize or mitigate the risk. Consider installing the system on another location rather than the roof. If you have to install on the roof, create and maintain clear exits and paths on the roof for maintenance. Have a professional engineer evaluate the structural integrity and load on the roof to ensure it can not only sustain the solar panels array but also a snow load. Be sure that you hire fully qualified, experienced and insured contractors. Make sure the panels are Underwriters Laboratories approved.
During the installation process make sure that expansion joints are used on all long runs of conduit. Have disconnects for both the DC and AC sides of the panel array. Uses correct installation techniques and wire management. Make sure that additional ground-fault and PV array isolation sensing device and provide sufficient ventilation so air can circulate. Make sure that the panels are installed to minimize wind uplift and that ground protection devices to de-energize the system when there’s a ground fault.
There are a number of challenges associated with installing solar panel arrays on your roof One is hindering firefighting, regardless of where the fire breaks out in the building the PV arrays increases the risk of electrocutions, slips and falls and other serious injury. If the fire is on the roof, the concealed spaces between the panels make it very difficult to have them extinguished. Also, there is no way to turn of a single PV panel or array. Solar panels are always live and contact them with them can cause shock or electrocution, or in some cases the entire roof can be electrified.. Damage to the solar panels due to weather could cause your business to be interrupted or if the fire is more severe because of the panels it may mean a longer downtime for your business to regain operations.
Some businesses may lease their roof space to contractors to install solar panels for others. Under this situation, there needs to be contracts and agreements in place about who is responsible for the maintenance of the panels, who is insuring the panels, and if a fire breaks out because of the panels who is liable for the damages. It is best to make sure that an attorney reviews these contracts and agreements before you sign and enter into them.
Solar panels are a relatively new technology. Who knows exactly how long the panels will last. More importantly will the contractor, manufacturer or vendor be around if they fail in a few years. It is very important that you make sure that everyone in the chain of providing these items is reputable and has been in business for a number of years.
Huff Insurance is a full service Independent Insurance Agent We have been dedicated to Protecting Lifestyles™ since 1960. We offer a full array of Personal Insurance, Commercial Insurance and Life Insurance & Health Insurance products. Call us at 410-647-111