Fire safety building standards present a significant challenge and have acted as a barrier to the development of the building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) market. This creates a complex landscape where it becomes vital for manufacturers and suppliers of BIPV products to understand and adhere to a multitude of standards in different markets, and to recognize that the fire safety testing of conventional PV products is already deficient.
With this in mind, a group of scientists at the Norwegian institute Rise Fire Research has developed a fire test for both small and large-scale BIPV façades. “Large-scale system tests of BIPV systems are lacking and this should be requested from more BIPV projects,” Rise researcher, Reidar Stølen, told pv magazine. “More experiments in realistic scales would be very interesting to see. So if anyone can share information from other tests of complete systems, this can be a way forward to see which parameters are crucial to designing truly fire-safe BIPV façades.”
The scientists concluded that the test results showed the importance of details in mounting BIPV façades and proper documentation from relevant fire tests of such systems. “Despite complying to IEC EN 61730 and EN 13501-1, the complete façade system failed to prevent modules from falling from the façade and vertically propagating fire in the cavity,” Stølen explained. “The cone calorimeter tests also show that the amount of combustible materials is limited in the modules, but that it ignites quite easily and burns with a high heat release rate.”
In another recent work, RISE researchers conducted a series of experiments indicating that the distance between solar modules and rooftop surfaces could be a crucial factor in PV system fires. A similar study, published by the University of Edinburgh and the Technical University of Denmark, showed similar results. The scientists analyzed fire dynamics and flame spread on the substrate beneath panels. They concluded that the shorter the distance between the panels and rooftop, the higher the probability of larger and more destructive fires.
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