The insurance sector is developing a new standard to reduce the potential for fire in commercial solar installations. However, the regulation has been met with skepticism in the solar business because it relies on a court judgment that is already outdated.

The 6th Photovoltaic Operation and Security Conference was held in Berlin at the end of November. During that time, Lutz Erbe, an expert at VGH Versicherungen, announced the release of the revised VdS recommendation 6023 for December. When it comes to protecting businesses across Europe, the VdS is unrivaled. The institute routinely publishes standards that stipulate technical and quality requirements for products, systems, services, and production methods. The potential for fire in solar systems prompted the new guideline, according to PV Magazine, a trade publication.

The 2019 ruling by the Higher Regional Court in Oldenburg provides the basis for the new VdS recommendation. Because the photovoltaic system had been installed on a structure with a combustible roof skin, the insurance company of the installation business had filed suit. The jury decided that "safe separation between the electrical components as ignition sources and the roof surface as a fire load" was necessary. The judgment referred to an inaccurate rendition of DIN VDE 0100-100. There was to be "zero tolerance for the ignition of combustible materials," the document read. The translation has been updated to reflect the current state of affairs, which is that the risk "only" has to be decreased.

Even with professionally manufactured systems, the VGH expert Erbe warns that fires can still occur if, for example, arcing melts the module pieces and the material drips onto the roof surface. Therefore, the new VdS standard demands serial arc detection and solutions for flammable roof insulation; additional non-combustible covers, such as PVC roofing membranes, could be considered. Nonetheless, the new VdS recommendation has yet to be universally well received. For instance, the German Solar Industry Association (BSW) has voiced disapproval of the guideline because it was developed in light of a court ruling based on a standard that has since been revised and rescinded.

At the BSW, one asks whether the insurance business intends to restrict the spread of photovoltaic expenses. According to the BSW, insurance companies frequently mention solar systems' inherent high damage potential. However, the insurance sector still needs to produce information on the actual risk of fire.

The solar industry's primary complaint centered on the method used to draft the new regulation. The insurance sector ought not to have coordinated its efforts with the BWS, the solar industry, or other experts before the completion of the guideline. Instead, it should have sought feedback on a final version. However, the content-focused audience finds serial arc detection plausible. Many modern inverters include this kind of detection as standard equipment.

It is a topic of controversy, however, whether or not non-combustible covers are indeed necessary. The release of the guideline is just the beginning of the process of refining and improving it.


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