Hidden Defects in Solar Battery Installations: What Inspectors Look For

Solar battery installation inspections are essential. They ensure systems are safe, compliant, and function optimally. While my previous blog outlined the common defects found during battery inspections, this instalment will focus on harder-to-spot issues that are often missed.

As a licensed electrical inspector, I have the training to spot these hidden problems — defects not always obvious but vital for the safety and operation of solar battery installations. Identifying and correcting these issues is crucial as they can significantly influence the system’s performance and safety.

Let’s examine some of these less noticeable defects that every installer and inspector needs to be aware of.

Insufficient Mechanical Protection for Cables

Bad: The battery cables (3rd input from the left) are not protected. To see also : Solaray In The Information – Australians pay the worth for affordable, plentiful solar.

Overview of the Issue

In the setup of solar battery systems, the physical protection of cables is not merely a requirement but a necessity for safety. Cables without sufficient mechanical protection are vulnerable to damage from environmental factors and routine maintenance activities. See the article : Drowning In Despair:  A Deep dive Into The Jinko Solar Suntank Warranty. This exposure not only risks the integrity of the cable but can also lead to serious safety hazards, including short circuits and fires.

Standards Cited

This issue is addressed under AS/NZS 5139:2019 CL 5. This may interest you : The Nature Conservancy, Dominion Vitality collaborate on solar improvement.3.1.4.3, which mandates that cables in certain configurations must be adequately protected to prevent physical damage.

5.3.1.4.3 Mechanical Protection

All cables that exit a pre-assembled battery system without internal overcurrent protection shall be mechanically protected by at least medium duty conduit or equivalent protection up to overcurrent protection device.

Recommendation

Good: Cables are protected all the way to the (hidden) battery terminals.

To shield cables effectively, I recommend protective conduits or cable covers. This can be a challenge when it comes to aesthetics, but cable trays or custom-made flashing not only protect but also look great.

However, if opting for metal flashing, it’s crucial to smooth any sharp edges.

Good: Nicely protected battery cabling (Installation credit: AR Energy Consulting Adelaide).

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Inadequate Isolation of Battery/Inverter Systems

Bad: Backup circuits are installed, but no isolator is adjacent to the system.

Overview of the Issue

Proper isolation of battery and inverter systems is critical for safety and maintenance when batteries are installed in locations not immediately adjacent to the main switchboard. Effective isolation allows the system to be safely disconnected, ensuring that maintenance personnel or inspectors are not exposed to live circuits during work and complicate both emergency responses and routine checks.

Standards Cited

AS/NZS 4777.1 Cl 3.4.3 specifies the requirements for isolation devices in solar energy systems, ensuring that the main and backup circuits can be effectively isolated when needed.

Recommendation

Good: On the left are 2 x AC isolators, one for the backup circuits.

It’s also important to ensure the isolator is easily accessible and clearly marked to facilitate quick action in an emergency.

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Earthing and Bonding Concerns

Bad: A 4mm² cable connected to a 2.5mm² earthing conductor back to the switchboard – not thick enough.

Overview of the Issue

Proper earthing and bonding are vital in any electrical installation, but they become even more crucial in higher-voltage systems 1. Inadequate earthing can lead to problems, including electrical shocks, system instability, and fire hazards. For solar battery systems, it is critical that the bonding conductors are sufficiently robust; a minimum cross-sectional area of 6mm² is required, not the 4mm² commonly used in domestic solar arrays.

Standards Cited

The importance of correct earthing practices is underscored in AS/NZS 5139:2019 CL 5.3.1.7.3 & 5.3.1.7.4, which dictate the specifications for earthing and bonding in solar installations.

Recommendation

Good: All earthing provided to the battery is 6mm².

To ensure safety and compliance, it is imperative that all metal enclosures associated with the battery system are properly bonded and earthed. Installers should strictly adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines for termination and avoid shortcuts such as self-drilling screws, which may compromise the integrity of the earth connection. Proper termination ensures a secure and reliable connection that meets safety standards and withstands environmental stresses, safeguarding against electrical faults.

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Insulation Deficiencies in Cabling

Overview of the Issue

In our world of solar battery installations, the integrity of cabling insulation is critical to protecting everyone. Insufficient insulation can expose systems to severe electrical hazards, including short circuits and fire risk. It’s crucial that all cabling, especially those leading to battery terminals, is double insulated to prevent these potential threats.

Standards Cited

This issue is governed by AS/NZS 5139:2019 CL 5.3.1.4.2, which stipulates the requirements for cable insulation in battery systems.

Recommendation

Good: Double insulation maintained all the way to the battery terminals.

To maintain safety and compliance, a rigorous inspection regimen should be implemented to check for insulation integrity. Any cables found with insufficient insulation should be replaced promptly. When installing new cables, ensure they are double-insulated throughout, extending up to the battery terminals. This meets the standard requirements and significantly reduces the risk of electrical failures. It’s advisable for installers to familiarise themselves with the types of insulation suitable for high-voltage setups and to use only products certified for such applications.

Conclusion

The less obvious aspects of battery installation safety are important yet easier to overlook. However, these aspects are essential for long-term reliability and safety. As discussed, proper cable protection, correct isolation of battery systems, secure earthing and bonding, and adequate cable insulation are key areas that need careful attention.

For those working in solar installation and inspection, paying close attention to these details is important to prevent failures and ensure the systems we install perform well and are safe.

Keeping up with regular checks, staying updated with the latest standards, and continuing our education in safety practices all have their place. As solar technology advances, we can ensure our installation practices meet the highest standards. It’s our responsibility to make sure every part of the installation is done right for the benefit of our clients and the environment.

Let’s keep pushing for excellence in every part of our work, ensuring that our solar and battery installations are as safe as possible.

Footnotes

  1. exceeding DVC-A

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