If you can read this, either the style sheet didn't load or you have an older browser that doesn't support style sheets. Try clearing your browser cache and refreshing the page.

(Mother Jones)   Did you know rooftop solar panels generate electricity? Firefighters do too, and they'd rather let your house burn down than get electrocuted on your roof   (motherjones.com) divider line 75
    More: Scary, electricity, solar panels, NBC Philadelphia, death panels, firefighting, roofs, San Jose, firefighters  
•       •       •

4333 clicks; posted to Geek » on 15 Sep 2013 at 11:59 PM (42 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



75 Comments   (+0 »)
   
View Voting Results: Smartest and Funniest

First | « | 1 | 2 | » | Last | Show all
 
2013-09-15 04:35:22 PM
I'd love to see shopping malls set up solar panels in their parking lots. Instead of letting all that asphalt bake under the hot sun, put solar panels on them, high enough off the ground to park your car under. The mall gets free electricity and the customers get free shade for their cars. win-win.

I'm jaded about a lot of stuff in life but I still think there's something magical about free power from the sky.
 
2013-09-15 04:48:50 PM
"With all that power and energy up there, I can't jeopardize a guy's life for that,"

Walking into a wall of fire, though, is A-OK.
 
2013-09-15 04:50:06 PM

NutWrench: I'd love to see shopping malls set up solar panels in their parking lots. Instead of letting all that asphalt bake under the hot sun, put solar panels on them, high enough off the ground to park your car under. The mall gets free electricity and the customers get free shade for their cars. win-win.

I'm jaded about a lot of stuff in life but I still think there's something magical about free power from the sky


A couple of parking lots have them here in San Diego, I dunno why more places don't, either. I guess the costs don't make sense (see the Rutgers thing at the end of this story, spending over $40M to save $28M http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444914904577619821383361 402.html )
 
2013-09-15 04:50:25 PM

NutWrench: I'd love to see shopping malls set up solar panels in their parking lots. Instead of letting all that asphalt bake under the hot sun, put solar panels on them, high enough off the ground to park your car under. The mall gets free electricity and the customers get free shade for their cars. win-win.

I'm jaded about a lot of stuff in life but I still think there's something magical about free power from the sky.


There are some schools around here that are doing just that. They've built canopies in the parking lot with solar panels on top. The cars underneath stay shaded, the solar panel on top provides electricity to the school.
 
2013-09-15 05:45:39 PM

NutWrench: I'd love to see shopping malls set up solar panels in their parking lots. Instead of letting all that asphalt bake under the hot sun, put solar panels on them, high enough off the ground to park your car under. The mall gets free electricity and the customers get free shade for their cars. win-win.

I'm jaded about a lot of stuff in life but I still think there's something magical about free power from the sky.


Not a bad idea. Power up electric cars?
 
2013-09-15 09:11:05 PM

NutWrench: I'm jaded about a lot of stuff in life but I still think there's something magical about free power from the sky.


There is because it doesn't exist.

Solar panels aren't free, or even cheap. To cover a mall parking lot would be great, but to the mall it would make no economic sense. That kind of solar farm and the maintenance it would require would be large in the ledgers.
 
2013-09-15 09:55:12 PM
Random, yet topical - Unless I'm very mistaken, I think MetLife Stadium has solar panels on its roof.  Probably can power the place during the offseason....
 
2013-09-15 11:07:15 PM
Same with a house with a metal roof, if I remember correctly.
 
2013-09-15 11:36:05 PM
So put the fires out at night

/sheesh... I gotta think of everything...
 
2013-09-16 12:04:33 AM
"The only thing firefighters fear more than fire is solar."

Uh...
 
2013-09-16 12:05:39 AM
A simple solution would be a small satchel with a shaped charge that will blow a hole in the roof.  Just chuck it out there and detonate.  No more worries about getting zapped plus they get to blow something up.
 
2013-09-16 12:06:41 AM
Um, why would a firefighter need to be on your roof?
 
2013-09-16 12:12:35 AM
Well, they also fear hybrid and electric cars, too.
 
2013-09-16 12:13:31 AM
Death Panels? Come on Subby, there was a Sarah Palin joke in that headline somewhere.
 
2013-09-16 12:15:45 AM

Smeggy Smurf: A simple solution would be a small satchel with a shaped charge that will blow a hole in the roof.  Just chuck it out there and detonate.  No more worries about getting zapped plus they get to blow something up.


No down side there right? Good thing that charge wouldn't shoot chunks of the roof into the people trapped below... Or a badly thrown one wouldn't take out a load bearing wall and collapse the room or while structure.
 
2013-09-16 12:17:00 AM

PanicMan: Um, why would a firefighter need to be on your roof?


They explained that in TFA, but I will recap. Hot gases and smoke tend to accumulate near the ceiling, By cutting a hole in the roof, those things are allowed to escape, greatly increasing visibility and reducing the chance of a flashover.
 
2013-09-16 12:19:58 AM

buckler: Well, they also fear hybrid and electric cars, too.


Saw a ton of articles about that for a while, i still wonder how much of it was FUD from the oil industry, since in most cases rescuers arent cutting through the bottom of the car.

Im giving this the benefit of the doubt in that regard being from Mother Jones, but this sounds like a pretty minor concern, i mean if you have to cut through any wall or roof id think hitting a live wire would be a concern regardless of the presence of solar panels. I mean its not like in this case warehouses dont normally have a bunch of wiring up near the roof or anything...

www.flecc.com
 
2013-09-16 12:24:17 AM

Quantumbunny: Smeggy Smurf: A simple solution would be a small satchel with a shaped charge that will blow a hole in the roof.  Just chuck it out there and detonate.  No more worries about getting zapped plus they get to blow something up.

No down side there right? Good thing that charge wouldn't shoot chunks of the roof into the people trapped below... Or a badly thrown one wouldn't take out a load bearing wall and collapse the room or while structure.


Obviously you have to not fark up but these are firefighters we're talking about.  They're not farkups
 
2013-09-16 12:37:55 AM
Science scary so grog must get rid of invisible light maker. Grog prefer natural light maker that is fire made from sticky oily stuff and bad smelling egg stuff. Grog burn down neighbors houses during power failure so grog can see in dark and cook grogs meat made of local 'talk about jebus' meatbags.
 
2013-09-16 12:42:23 AM
Subby so what doesn't the fire department just flick the switch on the side of your house that shuts them down which I believe every solar instillation has? (at least we have them in California)

Oh because this is more BS FUD, just like the one for hybrid cars where we supposed to pretend gas is very very safe and ignore all the hybrid safety features.
 
2013-09-16 12:42:31 AM
The problem with free power from the sky is that there's not enough money in it. How is anyone supposed to get filthy rich on this power source when its fuel is free to all?

Spare a moment to think of the oil companies. Weep for them. For how would they survive in a world where fuel is free and falls from the sky? How, I ask, how could they possibly survive??
 
2013-09-16 12:49:46 AM

NutWrench: I'd love to see shopping malls set up solar panels in their parking lots. Instead of letting all that asphalt bake under the hot sun, put solar panels on them, high enough off the ground to park your car under. The mall gets free electricity and the customers get free shade for their cars. win-win.

I'm jaded about a lot of stuff in life but I still think there's something magical about free power from the sky.


Solar panels are still crazy more expensive than asphalt.
 
2013-09-16 12:52:08 AM

Corvus: Subby so what doesn't the fire department just flick the switch on the side of your house that shuts them down which I believe every solar instillation has? (at least we have them in California)


In all realistic fairness, which subby isn't doing either - solar panels don't stop generating electricity if you "flick the switch."  In fact, if I heard someone suggest that as a solution, I'd consider them a goddamn idiot.
 
2013-09-16 12:59:32 AM

propasaurus: "With all that power and energy up there, I can't jeopardize a guy's life for that,"

Walking into a wall of fire, though, is A-OK.


To save human life, yes. To save property, no.
 
2013-09-16 01:04:11 AM

Lsherm: Corvus: Subby so what doesn't the fire department just flick the switch on the side of your house that shuts them down which I believe every solar instillation has? (at least we have them in California)

In all realistic fairness, which subby isn't doing either - solar panels don't stop generating electricity if you "flick the switch."  In fact, if I heard someone suggest that as a solution, I'd consider them a goddamn idiot.


How about a relay to short out each panel to de-energize the system? To be honest I have no idea what happens if you short out a panel.
 
2013-09-16 01:04:18 AM

Cyno01: buckler: Well, they also fear hybrid and electric cars, too.

Saw a ton of articles about that for a while, i still wonder how much of it was FUD from the oil industry, since in most cases rescuers arent cutting through the bottom of the car.

Im giving this the benefit of the doubt in that regard being from Mother Jones, but this sounds like a pretty minor concern, i mean if you have to cut through any wall or roof id think hitting a live wire would be a concern regardless of the presence of solar panels. I mean its not like in this case warehouses dont normally have a bunch of wiring up near the roof or anything...

[www.flecc.com image 593x332]


While I've never had to fight a warehouse fire, in my old department rule number #1 when rolling up to a structure fire was to kill power if possible.  Usually done by the master breaker outside or, in extreme cases, by clipping the "seal" on the meter panel (though that got me yelled at by the power company once) and pulling the meter.  SOP for a structure was also to dispatch a crew from the power company so they could pull the pole transformer fuse(s) to kill the service line.
 
2013-09-16 01:06:27 AM

Lsherm: Corvus: Subby so what doesn't the fire department just flick the switch on the side of your house that shuts them down which I believe every solar instillation has? (at least we have them in California)

In all realistic fairness, which subby isn't doing either - solar panels don't stop generating electricity if you "flick the switch."  In fact, if I heard someone suggest that as a solution, I'd consider them a goddamn idiot.


Unless that goddamn idiot knew what kind of inverters the panels used. Solar panels generate DC current, which has to be converted over to AC to be of any use to the house and grid(unless you've set up a battery system, but most PV installs that I know of of tie into the grid). So, if you're using the standard large inverter setup, that's constant DC from the panels to the inverter, then AC into the main. You can put shutoffs all over the place, but the panels will still be generating power in the light and there is always the possibility of getting zapped if you mess with them before the first shutoff.
But, there is also what's called a micro inverter, which is an individual unit wired to each panel and converts the array to AC before it gets off the roof. These are easier to install but the best part is that micro inverters have to be tied into the grid to actually send their power. You can shut them off at the roof or at the main breaker or any of the usual shutoffs required and pretty much kill the system. Then, as long as you don't mess with the tie in from the micros to the panels, you can do whatever you want to the wiring.
And really, if you know where the positive leg is on a large inverter string, you can disconnect that be okay. But the strings are tied in under the panels and not terribly easy to disconnect, let along do it fast and under duress- like fighting a fire. But if the firefighter knew or told it was a micro inverter array, they can just flip the break in the main and be relatively safe.
 
2013-09-16 01:07:01 AM

NutWrench: The mall gets free electricity and the customers get free shade for their cars. win-win.


Isn't it nice how the solar panel manufacturers just give the panels away for free?  Awesome.
 
2013-09-16 01:09:57 AM

Cyno01: buckler: Well, they also fear hybrid and electric cars, too.

Saw a ton of articles about that for a while, i still wonder how much of it was FUD from the oil industry, since in most cases rescuers arent cutting through the bottom of the car.

Im giving this the benefit of the doubt in that regard being from Mother Jones, but this sounds like a pretty minor concern, i mean if you have to cut through any wall or roof id think hitting a live wire would be a concern regardless of the presence of solar panels. I mean its not like in this case warehouses dont normally have a bunch of wiring up near the roof or anything...

[www.flecc.com image 593x332]


Oh, and I never really feared hybrids.  I was always nervous around undeployed airbags, especially the door ones.  Saw far too many videos of a extrication crew popping a door and then having the door airbag go off when you swing the door out of the way.
 
2013-09-16 01:10:28 AM

Corvus: Subby so what doesn't the fire department just flick the switch on the side of your house that shuts them down which I believe every solar instillation has? (at least we have them in California)


It is standard procedure to shut down the electricity to the house and that shuts down the inverter which keeps it from going to the grid with properly installed systems.  The solar panels still generate electricity and the power lines can carry 600 volts DC to the inverter.  Around here switches are required near the panels but there are lots of places where a loose wire could have enough voltage to kill someone.
 
2013-09-16 01:22:00 AM
Honest Bender: Isn't it nice how the solar panel manufacturers just give the panels away for free?

From time to time, the government has given huge refunds/deductions/whatever for going "green".
 
2013-09-16 01:22:01 AM

doglover: NutWrench: I'm jaded about a lot of stuff in life but I still think there's something magical about free power from the sky.

There is because it doesn't exist.

Solar panels aren't free, or even cheap. To cover a mall parking lot would be great, but to the mall it would make no economic sense. That kind of solar farm and the maintenance it would require would be large in the ledgers.


I would think it would make more sense at a mall.  They're open all day and suck up huge amounts of electricity for lighting and air conditioning.  While a home is commonly empty all day so needs that power at night when the solar panels are useless.
 
2013-09-16 01:32:03 AM

wildcardjack: Lsherm: Corvus: Subby so what doesn't the fire department just flick the switch on the side of your house that shuts them down which I believe every solar instillation has? (at least we have them in California)

In all realistic fairness, which subby isn't doing either - solar panels don't stop generating electricity if you "flick the switch."  In fact, if I heard someone suggest that as a solution, I'd consider them a goddamn idiot.

How about a relay to short out each panel to de-energize the system? To be honest I have no idea what happens if you short out a panel.


You'd probably get lots of little fires wherever the shorts occur.

If you're going through the trouble of putting relays in, you'd probably just want to disconnect the conductors right there at the panel. That would reduce the risk of energizing anything outside of the panel itself. Past that, good design (things like not putting the positive/negative connections right next to each other would make an accidental shock pretty unlikely. If you wanted to be really fancy, you could have a small motorized covering automatically slide over the panel in an emergency situation (the motor powered by it's own panel).

The real problem here sounds like a lack of training and preparedness. In my neck of the woods, they would have this kind of thing worked out ahead of time... TFA says the panels had been up there for four years.
 
2013-09-16 01:32:18 AM

Your_Huckleberry: Lsherm: Corvus: Subby so what doesn't the fire department just flick the switch on the side of your house that shuts them down which I believe every solar instillation has? (at least we have them in California)

In all realistic fairness, which subby isn't doing either - solar panels don't stop generating electricity if you "flick the switch."  In fact, if I heard someone suggest that as a solution, I'd consider them a goddamn idiot.

Unless that goddamn idiot knew what kind of inverters the panels used. Solar panels generate DC current, which has to be converted over to AC to be of any use to the house and grid(unless you've set up a battery system, but most PV installs that I know of of tie into the grid). So, if you're using the standard large inverter setup, that's constant DC from the panels to the inverter, then AC into the main. You can put shutoffs all over the place, but the panels will still be generating power in the light and there is always the possibility of getting zapped if you mess with them before the first shutoff.
But, there is also what's called a micro inverter, which is an individual unit wired to each panel and converts the array to AC before it gets off the roof. These are easier to install but the best part is that micro inverters have to be tied into the grid to actually send their power. You can shut them off at the roof or at the main breaker or any of the usual shutoffs required and pretty much kill the system. Then, as long as you don't mess with the tie in from the micros to the panels, you can do whatever you want to the wiring.
And really, if you know where the positive leg is on a large inverter string, you can disconnect that be okay. But the strings are tied in under the panels and not terribly easy to disconnect, let along do it fast and under duress- like fighting a fire. But if the firefighter knew or told it was a micro inverter array, they can just flip the break in the main and be relatively safe.


tl;dr:

How can you expect a fireman to know everything you just puked out in your post?
 
2013-09-16 01:34:05 AM

OgreMagi: doglover: NutWrench: I'm jaded about a lot of stuff in life but I still think there's something magical about free power from the sky.

There is because it doesn't exist.

Solar panels aren't free, or even cheap. To cover a mall parking lot would be great, but to the mall it would make no economic sense. That kind of solar farm and the maintenance it would require would be large in the ledgers.

I would think it would make more sense at a mall.  They're open all day and suck up huge amounts of electricity for lighting and air conditioning.  While a home is commonly empty all day so needs that power at night when the solar panels are useless.


Some places will allow you to sell excess PV power back onto the grid, which works great for the power companies because the middle of the day is peak demand anyway.
 
2013-09-16 01:35:30 AM
In some respects, I don't blame the fire fighters - as others have mentioned earlier in the thread, the panels can be generating 480v-600v DC, even if the power is killed to the building.

Where it gets really scary for firefighters are the jurisdictions where codes don't require the facility to have external AC breakers, rooftop DC string breakers, and there isn't labeling outside the building that there is an onsite battery backup/inverter.

At my house, the utility required that I have both a grid breaker and a separate battery/inverter disconnect switch at the external utility meter (there however isn't a rooftop PV string disconnect). They also sent out a county inspector and utility inspector to run the system through all phases of shut-down and verified that power was fully shut down (in an area of 2 million people, this was the 3rd grid-tied battery backup they had seen).

The large disconnect can be seen to the edge of the right, along with proper warning labels on the net meter:
scontent-b-sea.xx.fbcdn.net

At my work, they required disconnects, but no where in the code (in 2007) did it say that they needed to be external. The inverter/battery disconnect sits deep within the bowels of the building, in the basement server room. If they were to cut power to the facility, most of the AC and all of the DC lines will still be energized for many, many hours, if not days.

The white box on the left has the backup system disconnect . . .
scontent-b-sea.xx.fbcdn.net

The sad thing, this is up to code in Seattle. There should be a much stricter standard for PV/electrical work across the nation - not this mishmash of codes written by people who've never seen these systems work and were likely written several decades ago.
 
2013-09-16 01:35:42 AM

Lsherm: How can you expect a fireman to know everything you just puked out in your post?


How can you expect a fireman to understand building construction?

In my neck of the woods, a 4-year college degree is required and there's a huge waitlist for people wanting to get that gig. They better damn well have at least someone on the crew who understands electrical systems.
 
2013-09-16 01:38:33 AM
MrSteve007: There should be a much stricter standard for PV/electrical work across the nation - not this mishmash of codes written by people who've never seen these systems work and were likely written several decades ago.

This pretty much goes for any electrical work across the country. The code discrepancies are mind-boggling in some places.
 
2013-09-16 01:43:14 AM

Fubini: MrSteve007: There should be a much stricter standard for PV/electrical work across the nation - not this mishmash of codes written by people who've never seen these systems work and were likely written several decades ago.

This pretty much goes for any electrical work across the country. The code discrepancies are mind-boggling in some places.


Another funny thing about that battery box photo . . . the batteries are gel-cell, meaning they're ventless/sealed batteries, but the code required us to put in that white external ventilation line to dissipate any hydrogen gas buildup.

The code required a vent for ventless batteries, yet only needed a battery disconnect that is impossible for firefighters to reach during a fire . . .
 
2013-09-16 01:48:08 AM

MrSteve007: the code required us to put in that white external ventilation line to dissipate any hydrogen gas buildup.


Why is the vent near the bottom of the box? If it were to accumulate hydrogen gas, that vent wouldn't stop the box from getting (and staying) ~90% full of hydrogen.  Shouldn't the vent be at the top of the box?
 
2013-09-16 01:50:43 AM
Why not start equipping fire stations with a truck or two that have tanks of opaque liquids (think mud) to spray on any potential PV arrays? Block the light, kill the power.
 
2013-09-16 01:56:58 AM

Honest Bender: Why is the vent near the bottom of the box? If it were to accumulate hydrogen gas, that vent wouldn't stop the box from getting (and staying) ~90% full of hydrogen. Shouldn't the vent be at the top of the box?


If you were worried about actually venting hydrogen, absolutely!
 
2013-09-16 02:00:18 AM

amyldoanitrite: Why not start equipping fire stations with a truck or two that have tanks of opaque liquids (think mud) to spray on any potential PV arrays? Block the light, kill the power.


An ok idea, until you start spraying the roof with water to put out the fire, washing off the opaque liquid. Also pretty much impossible to do on warehouses and larger buildings.
www.njrcleanenergyventures.com
 
2013-09-16 02:09:09 AM
Are there any incidents on record at all anywhere of firefighters being harmed by solar installatons?
 
2013-09-16 02:19:14 AM

amyldoanitrite: Why not start equipping fire stations with a truck or two that have tanks of opaque liquids (think mud) to spray on any potential PV arrays? Block the light, kill the power.


It is estimated that the panels would need to be covered with an opaque tarp for 7-10 days before the panels will "de-energize" down to minuscule levels.
--firehouse.com

The question asked which really put things in prospective - someone asked that since California is number one when it comes to Solar Panel System installations, "...what do their Firefighters do when a structure fire involves these systems?" Answer was "... they let it burn!"
--firehouse.com
 
2013-09-16 02:41:33 AM

Lsherm: Your_Huckleberry: Lsherm: Corvus: Subby so what doesn't the fire department just flick the switch on the side of your house that shuts them down which I believe every solar instillation has? (at least we have them in California)

In all realistic fairness, which subby isn't doing either - solar panels don't stop generating electricity if you "flick the switch."  In fact, if I heard someone suggest that as a solution, I'd consider them a goddamn idiot.

Unless that goddamn idiot knew what kind of inverters the panels used. Solar panels generate DC current, which has to be converted over to AC to be of any use to the house and grid(unless you've set up a battery system, but most PV installs that I know of of tie into the grid). So, if you're using the standard large inverter setup, that's constant DC from the panels to the inverter, then AC into the main. You can put shutoffs all over the place, but the panels will still be generating power in the light and there is always the possibility of getting zapped if you mess with them before the first shutoff.
But, there is also what's called a micro inverter, which is an individual unit wired to each panel and converts the array to AC before it gets off the roof. These are easier to install but the best part is that micro inverters have to be tied into the grid to actually send their power. You can shut them off at the roof or at the main breaker or any of the usual shutoffs required and pretty much kill the system. Then, as long as you don't mess with the tie in from the micros to the panels, you can do whatever you want to the wiring.
And really, if you know where the positive leg is on a large inverter string, you can disconnect that be okay. But the strings are tied in under the panels and not terribly easy to disconnect, let along do it fast and under duress- like fighting a fire. But if the firefighter knew or told it was a micro inverter array, they can just flip the break in the main and be relatively safe.

tl;dr:

How can you expect a fireman to know everything you just puked out in your post?


What?? Hell man, everyone knows that....you saying firefighters are ignorant? Micro Inverters have been around since...ever.
 
2013-09-16 03:05:16 AM

Fubini: (the motor powered by it's own panel).


Or by extra apostrophes. You could power an aircraft carrier with those.
 
2013-09-16 03:16:49 AM
Why are all our public servants such Nancy boys?

We pay you to take risks. If you don't like it there are plenty of people who are willing to do so and take your place.
 
2013-09-16 03:38:50 AM

NutWrench: I'd love to see shopping malls set up solar panels in their parking lots. Instead of letting all that asphalt bake under the hot sun, put solar panels on them, high enough off the ground to park your car under. The mall gets free electricity and the customers get free shade for their cars. win-win.

I'm jaded about a lot of stuff in life but I still think there's something magical about free power from the sky.


My hospital has this too. did the entire parking lot.
It's great for the facility, and good for the patients and their vehicles as well. Particularly considering how hot it gets down here.
 
2013-09-16 03:58:40 AM
Did you know that firefighters are specifically trained to deal with electricity, because it's a major cause of fires?

Did you know that for the same reason, fire gear is designed to be an electrical insulator, specifically so that firemen don't have to worry about live wires and such when chopping through sheet-rock and extinguishing electrical fired?

Did you know that at the standard currents for solar panels, someone in standard fire gear could tap dance on one for half and hour, then rip it apart with their bare (well, gloved) hands without so much as a mild joy buzzing?

Did you know that one of the first things a fireman does around any electrical appliance is flip the off switch or unplug it, because they're rarely stupid people?

Are you aware that TFA is a conspiracy theory website that also thinks that condensation trails off of planes are a secret government conspiracy to poison you, that allergies are a government conspiracy, and that fluoridated water is a mind-control drug?

Did you know that Alex Jones is the guy that the 9/11 was an inside job folks and the moon landing deniers point to as evidence that they aren't stupid and/or crazy, because he's probably one of five people of the 6 billion in the world that's more disconnected from reality than they are?
 
Displayed 50 of 75 comments

First | « | 1 | 2 | » | Last | Show all

View Voting Results: Smartest and Funniest


This thread is closed to new comments.

Continue Farking
Submit a Link »






Report