Fire Prevention and Solar: A Case Study in Newcastle, CA
SEG recently did a ground mount solar array in Newcastle, CA. The customers opted for two project features that significantly reduced the fire risk to their home and property.
1) Replacing the existing Zinsco Service panel.
2) Adding a 10’ fire break/weed barrier around the ground mount array.
For details about the known fire hazard of Zinsco and other service panels and the advantage of replacing them, see our lead electrician Joe Nelson’s article in the June newsletter.
Here’s a picture of the old Zinsco panel that we found on the job site, next to a new, empty 200A solar-ready service panel, waiting for breakers.
The fire break/weed barrier around the solar array serves two functions:
- Protects the solar panels in the event of a wildfire that moves through the property.
- Prevents vegetation growing up under and around the array from shading the lower panels of the system.
Hazard: The open field in which the solar array was installed is in a rural area. It is Westward-sloping toward a forested area and rife with Star Thistle. So the potential for a wildfire in the area that could affect the array and property is not negligible.
Construction details: We installed 23 yards of 3/4” cut rock under and around the solar array. It was surrounded by a 2×4 pressure treated perimeter retainer and underlaid with weed cloth to prevent plants from growing up through the gravel bed.
Finished Product: A 32-panel ground mount array that will provide power for the home and is protected against intrusion from vegetation and fire.
As a Grass Valley, CA based solar company, we pride ourselves in doing expert work meant to withstand local weather and environmental conditions. For example, we install fire-ready solar arrays in areas where dead vegetation threatens to burn the natural landscape. We acknowledge that Northern California solar companies must consider wildfire hazards and build accordingly.