Several apartment units in the Netherlands were almost completely destroyed after solar panels caught fire after getting overheated as a heat wave seizes large areas of Europe.
Firefighters were called to a small village in the Netherlands on Aug. 3 after smoke had been detected on a roof. Heat from the sun’s rays likely “overloaded” the solar panels, causing “enormous” damage, according to a local news report. Nobody was injured.
Fumes from solar panel fires could create toxic conditions for firefighters, researchers claim. “Solar panels and batteries contain toxic chemicals that may be released in a fire and are dangerous if inhaled,” Nick Gromicko of home ownership association group InterNACHI wrote in a research note.
A report in 2017 from pro-nuclear group Environmental Progress Solar shows solar panels create 300 times more toxic waste per unit of electricity generated than nuclear power plants. Panels use heavy metals, including lead, chromium and cadmium, which can harm the environment, the report noted.
Panels are also difficult to dispose. Japan is already scrambling for ways to reuse its mounting inventory of solar panel waste, which is expected to exceed 10,000 tons by 2020 and eventually grow to 800,000 tons per year by 2040. (RELATED: Firefighters: Solar Panels Make Our Jobs Harder And More Dangerous)
Firefighters, for their part, worry that solar panels can prevent first responders from vertically ventilating a fire, potentially making it much harder to put out.
“Normally, under ten minutes of heavy fire conditions, a roof structure usually collapses,” Lt. Paul McAllister, a firefighter at the West Warwick Fire Department, told reporters in 2016 from a Rhode Island local news channel. “This is probably going to be a little bit sooner now if we have solar panels on the roof.”
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