Huntsville Center leads first Solar Array Safety Training

By Lillian PutnamMay 8, 2024

Solar Array Training Participants
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Will Casey, Luminace contractor, speaking at the first solar array safety training, Feb. 29, 2024, courtesy photo. (Photo Credit: Lillian Putnam) VIEW ORIGINAL
Solar Array
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Solar array at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Feb. 29, 2024, courtesy photo. (Photo Credit: Lillian Putnam) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – Personnel from the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville led training focused on providing best practices for installation firefighters to address challenges with solar panel fires.

The first of its kind training, held at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Feb. 29, was hosted by Jacob Morrison, Huntsville Center Installation Support Directorate project manager and Kyle Shireman, Huntsville Center safety manager.

“The Solar Fire Safety Training is, as far as we’re aware, is the first time Huntsville Center has done anything like this, and will likely not be the last,” Morrison said.

“The training is geared towards giving firefighters best practices then pointing them to other resources about fire safety around solar panels and lithium batteries."

Huntsville Center is leading the effort to build more best practices and training as there are limited industry standards and training currently offered.

Morrison said there is a need for trainings as regulations are not keeping pace with the progress of technology and implementation.

“Currently, there are not a lot of regulations and industry standards yet, so there are not trainings set in place. That is why the fire department reached out to our team to create and conduct the training” he said.

Morrison explains how this training is an important part of fire safety now that some solar arrays, groupings of solar panels, are beginning to see more complications arise with age.

“Solar technology has now been around long enough that solar arrays across the country are seeing deterioration and occasionally fires break out. The chemicals and metals in solar arrays and batteries present unique challenges for firefighters, so trainings like this are critical to helping them in the field.”

The training hosted more than 20 participants, including firefighters and professionals from the office of director of public works.

“With the collaboration of all entities involved; it allows us all to be better prepared and educated on the current and future solar farms on our installation,” said a participant in the training, Wesly Lafortune, Fort Campbell Fire and Emergency Services district chief.

Not only did the training offer participants with best practices for combating solar array fires, but it also provided guidance for when other issues arise.

“If the fire departments on installations are better able to respond to emergencies involving solar arrays, then they are better able to support the technology that supplies energy to installations,” Morrison said.

Huntsville Center’s Energy Division is directly involved with initiatives set in the Army Climate Strategy. Efforts involving solar arrays and microgrids are crucial for the continuation of building energy resilience and meeting goals designated by the ACS.

The ACS states, “The Army will build on its current progress in areas such as vehicle fuel efficiency and electrification, operational power generation, battery storage, land management, procurement, supply chain resilience, and workforce development. The Army will continue to reduce consumption of energy and other natural resources to improve operational readiness and modernization while adapting to and mitigating current and future climate threat.”

Morrison elaborates on the importance of this work for today and in the future, “maintaining solar arrays that feed into microgrid systems are important for resiliency, which is a high priority for this administration.”

“Seeing that these systems are safely able to continue on into the future is imperative for the safety and security of our installations here at home and abroad."