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Solar power is an everlasting energy source; its use is expanding around the world. According to the Solar Electric Power Association, solar power is the fastest growing utility electric source. In 2011, photovoltaic (PV) solar energy capacity reached 4,000 MW.

Solar power converts sunlight into electricity using either photovoltaic (PV) or concentrated solar power (CSP)/solar thermal power. While solar energy is an environmentally safe form of energy generation, it still poses fire risks. It is necessary to be aware of the risks and proper fire protection solutions. With three decades of experience, F.E. Moran Special Hazard Systems has the expertise to implement fire protection solutions that will minimize the impact of a fire event.

solar power plant fire protection

Photovoltaic: A photovoltaic cell (PV) converts light into an electric current. PV cells, otherwise known as solar cells, produce a direct current power. Each cell produces about 1-2 watts of energy. However, the direct current produced from the cells must be converted to a utility frequency alternating current (AC). This requires inverters, which would convert the DC solar energy into usable AC electricity. Photovoltaic cells and inverters are at high risk for lightning strikes, which could result in fire. An additional fire protection hazard is the risk of electrocution during fire fighting efforts as it is difficult to de-energize PV cells. Fire protection, both suppression and detection, should be provided on switchgear rooms and other ancillary structures used by the PV power facility.

Concentrated Solar/Solar Thermal: Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) uses a series of lenses, mirrors, or heliostats and tracking systems to narrow the expansive sunlight into a beam of intense light. There are several different concentration technologies including Concentrating Linear Fresnel Reflector, Stirling Dish, Linear Parabolic Reflector/Parabolic Troughs, Solar Dish, and Solar Power Tower. Once the particular concentration technology has focused the beam of sunlight, that beam is used as a source of energy for a conventional steam generating power plant. Concentrating/Thermal Solar provides the heat for various heat transfer fluids, depending on the design configuration of the solar plant. The heat transfer fluids introduce fire hazards in the solar fields; additionally, fire hazards are also present throughout the conventional steam generator power plant.

Large commercial CSP power plants come in two basic types. The largest ones are constructed utilizing a solar tower also known as a central tower or heliostat power plant. It is a type of solar furnace that uses a tower to receive and concentrate sunlight. The heliostats focus the sun's rays onto the tower that collects the sun's energy. The concentrated light converts to heat, driving a heat engine such as a steam turbine. The heat engine connects to an electrical power generator producing energy.

Another common CSP power plant type is the parabolic trough. Troughs are constructed with parabolic mirrors and Dewar tubes. The sunlight reflects off of the mirrors and is concentrated on the Dewar tube. Heat transfer fluid runs through the Dewar tube, absorbing the concentrated heat. The heat transfer fluid is used to heat steam for a standard steam turbine generator.

• Early fire detection - provides ample warning in structures that pose a fire risk.
• Flame-sensing radiant energy fire detectors - Ideal for flaming fires, fire detectors quickly recognize a fire ignition and alert the fire protection solutions.
• Smoke fire detectors - Sense smoldering fires in a variety of locations.
• Wet pipe fire sprinklers - F.E. Moran Special Hazard Systems adheres to NFPA standards to design, install, inspect, test, and maintain fire sprinklers for a variety of structures.
• Deluge fire sprinklers - In outdoor areas with heat transfer fluid, deluge fire sprinklers will promptly contain or extinguish fires.