In the European Union, the REPowerEU plan was created to advance the implementation of renewable energy sources. At the heart of this transition is solar energy which offers an affordable and reliable energy source for EU citizens with the additional security of domestic production virtually in any nation.
To realise this vision, domestically manufactured solar power will be increasingly ramped up in the EU over the coming years. The initial plan is to significantly boost the deployment of renewable energy solutions, as proposed in the REPowerEU plan, which includes a legislative proposal involving a revision of the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive (RED), and related directives: Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings (the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, (EPBD)) and Directive 2012/27/EU known as the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED).
A new obligation for Member States
Businesses and industry are particularly interested in the revision of the EPBD that introduces a new obligation for Member States. Specifically, this addition will require commercial buildings to install solar energy solutions on all new public and commercial buildings that feature a useful floor area over 250 m2 by the end of 2026.
Additionally, by the end of 2027, the requirement will extend to “all existing public and commercial buildings with a useful floor area over 250 m2.” This new legislation will finally be extended to include all new residential buildings by the end of 2029.
EU measures will make the installation of solar panels on the rooftops of new buildings obligatory. Permit procedures for renewable energy projects will be streamlined, and actions taken will focus on improving the skills base in the solar sector alongside increasing the EU’s capacity to manufacture photovoltaic panels.
Here we dive into some of the concerns and issues that still need to be resolved before building codes dictate the installation of solar panels and automatic shut-off switches. There is increased competition for land across most Member States, and technological concerns still exist in terms of reliable energy production. There is also a shortage of skilled labour in the renewable industry and significantly more solar panel producers are needed.
The EU plan includes “doubling the current level of solar photovoltaic capacity by 2025 and producing almost 600 GW by 2030.” To reach this target, EU Member States will need to make a significant commitment to deploying renewable energy, including the planning and delivery of increased domestic solar production and the realisation of innovative technologies. At the core of these targets, non-EU dependencies for materials components and hardware are to be avoided.
What are the risks?
From an industrial perspective, businesses are generally very focused on fire safety, normally adhering to local standards and guidelines. Many companies also invest in training their personnel to maintain and use solar cells effectively.
According to Anders Rørvik Ellingbø, Head of Risk Management Norway at If Insurance, “It is critical to understand the fire safety-related issues when making decisions to install extensive energy efficient solutions. Many of these technologies are new and with that comes new challenges.”
From a fire safety perspective, using non-combustible materials between the panels and the roof will help to create a slight buffer. Similarly, coupling connections need to be covered securely, to keep the fire from escalating quickly.
Anders notes that, “Non-combustible plates can mitigate somewhat, but if the fire and temperature accumulate then this is not enough, so we also recommend using non-combustible insulation, (e.g., mineral wool) to help mitigate the spread of fire. This has been proven in tests completed by If Insurance with clients.”
Beyond the obvious issues with using water to extinguish electrically charged panels, roof cavities also trap heat. During a large fire event, commonly in commercial and private dwellings, the fire brigade will seek to create openings in the roof to ‘ventilate’ the building. With solar panels installed across the rooftop, it can be more difficult to execute this activity.