Solar is the future and green, distributed energy supply is the way to go. PV solar systems are a very safe technology and for many years they've been built without any major safety issues.
However, the adoption of Module Level Shutdown (MLSD) in the National Electrical Code (NEC) has caused some unintended consequences. Because proper MLSD solutions are not available today, systems actually became more complex, less safe, and less reliable.
This puts a tremendous burden on solar installers and system buyers – and at the end, only helps utilities and non-renewable energy suppliers.
Let's fix Module Level Shutdown and do it the right way, so that solar can prosper!
The National Electrical Code requires shutdown devices to be added to virtually every single module. Such additional components at the module level would usually not be necessary for operating a solar system properly. However, solar installers are now forced to using technologies that have major downsides and unintended consequences:
Shutdown devices must be added to every single module in a PV system. This increases complexity and cost of systems, as more hardware and more labor is required. On top of that, a duopoly controls 90% of the market for shutdown solutions, limiting customer choice and competition.
The current shutdown solutions increase fire risks and dangers for installers, fire fighters, and system owners because of:
Having to add a shutdown device to every single module increases the workers time spent on the roof significantly, which adds to the risks of falling, slipping, or tripping.
Current solutions for Module Level Shutdown (MLSD) compromise the reliability of systems, because a vast number of sensitive electronics is placed in the harsh environment of a roof. Each of these components has a failure rate and wear rate over the 20+ years of a system's lifetime. This can turn into a big liability for solar installers and cause distrust in our industry.
A majority of systems with shutdown solutions based on DC optimizers and microinverters (90% of residential installations) produces less energy than systems without these module level power electronics.
Recent articles in mainstream media, such as CNBC or Business Insider, regarding solar fires with DC connector issues shine a bad light on the solar industry. They make look solar unsafe or not trustworthy. Ignoring this issue would be bad for the industry, becasue solar is generally a very safe technology!
Let’s fix Module Level Shutdown (MLSD) and promote innovative solutions that eliminate these problems and help grow distributed solar as an energy source. Such solutions are chip-based, module integrated, and based an open industry standard (SunSpec) - allowing for simplicity, standardized safety, reliability, and customer choice.
To prevent the unintended consequences of the current code requirements and to allow for systems that are simple, safe, and more reliable, we request that code makers make the following changes to the National Electric Code:
Request 1: Revert NEC 2020 690.12 (Module Level Shutdown) to NEC 2014 690.12 (Array Level Shutdown) requirements until proper solutions are available on the market, such as module-integrated, chip-based devices with an open industry standard
Request 2: Revert to NEC 2014 690.12 but keep the 1' array boundary
Request 3: Implementing a maximum electrical noise level requirement for rapid shutdown devices in 690.12
Request 4: Require 690.11 (Arc Fault Circuit Protection) to apply to all solar PV DC circuits, not just those above 80V, to detect any potential fire safety issues