A new solar fire safety product, the ArcBox solar connector enclosure, was unveiled this week by Viridian Solar at the Solar Solutions International show in the Netherlands, where it has already been recognized with an innovation award.
ArcBox reduces the risk that a mistake putting together electrical connections in a solar PV system might develop into a dangerous fire. Installers need only snap the clamshell enclosure around the outside of an MC4 electrical connector. Testing by Loughborough University and the KIWA fire test laboratories has confirmed that ArcBox safely contains a DC arc within the connector and prevents it from spreading to start a fire in nearby combustible materials. The patented product also provides sufficient ventilation for the connector to remain within permitted temperature limits in regular use.
"The installation errors that might cause a DC connector to develop an arc-fault condition include incomplete insertion, cross-mating connectors from different manufacturers, poor on-site crimped joints, damage during or after installation, and assembly while wet leading to corrosion of contacts," says Dr. KT Tan, Chief Technical Officer at Viridian Solar, "Solar installers are making millions of such connections each year, often in difficult locations or adverse weather conditions which further increase the risk of a problem. ArcBox gives extra peace of mind to solar installers and their customers."
—added Stuart Elmes, CEO at Viridian Solar
"At Viridian Solar we believe that ArcBox provides an opportunity to help make all solar installations safer, and this will guide our approach to distribution and partnership. We have made fixing details of the ArcBox available to industry participants and encourage them to create mounting arrangements suitable for their own products."
"BIPV installations have gained attention in some markets as posing an increased fire risk, and we extend an open offer to other manufacturers of BIPV to join with us in improving best practice installation. We also see a requirement for ArcBox for above-roof solar systems installed over combustible roof coverings such as asphalt and single ply membrane and for solar on buildings that if put out of use, even for a short period, would have significant knock-on effects—such as hospitals, care homes, schools or factories."
In the UK, the Building Research Establishment (BRE) conducted a study into solar fires between 2015 and 2018 and identified connectors and cabling as the second most common cause of solar PV fires. A study of solar fires in the Netherlands by TNO in 2020 found that poorly installed DC connectors were the number one cause of solar fires and were responsible for more than 80% of fires in the study.