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PV SAFETY: improving PV system reliability by a new concept including a novel arc detection unit



The objective of the project is to develop and validate a new device to install in the DC wiring of PV systems in order to improve overall safety. This new device will be capable of
detecting faulty conditions such as electric arcs due to
failing contacts, ground faults, out of voltage circuits, etc.. In particular, the device should possibly be able to identify the location of such micro-arcs and their nature: loss of
isolation or loose contacts, and eventually clear them.
The final result of the project should be the development of a comprehensive PV array safety concept including
specifications for equipment and procedures for DC-arc
prevention, arc detection and arc suppression.

Technical Approach

The collection of information concerning fault conditions,
especially of fires, which occurred in PV systems generated by arcs and micro-arcs in the DC wiring, connection boxes, switch boards etc. and their analysis will supply the basis to
recognize the common-mode failures generating the arc.
Laboratory arc tests will permit the understanding and
characterising of the phenomena; while, by means of field
experiments, the lab results will be validated .
An arc detector device which analyses the noise spectrum
created by an arc will be developed.
The problem of the discrimination of signals coming from the environment (e.g. inverter or diffuse noises like radio
frequencies) will be solved for different categories of plant and site.
By means of computer simulations the influence of the array
configuration on the propagation of the arc signal will be

Expected Achievements and Exploitation

The outputs of this project are:
- The research and the identification of common failures
causing an arc in DC wiring.
- A deep knowledge of the development of an arc in DC wiring. Specifications concerning arc prevention and installation
- Specification of arc containment by using suitable equipment and installation procedures.
- Specification of an active arc detector circuit, using arc detection and suppression with a suitable disabling procedure. - Setting-up of a device or family of devices suitable to be installed in different PV systems to improve general safety
and capable to prevent fires generated by electric DC arcs.
- The arc detector device could be installed in all PV systems to be erected by the partners of the project and, with a
licence agreement at reasonable conditions, by all EU PV
- This device should increase the safety of small and large PV power plants by providing protection against fires originated by arcs in the DC wiring of PV plants.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts


Anit Impianti Fotovoltaici Srl
Via Pacinotti 20
16151 Genova

Participants (3)

Alpha Real AG
8008 Zürich
Ente Nazionale per l'Energia Elettrica SpA (ENEL)
Via Alessandro Volta 1
20093 Cologno Monzese
Heidenhofstrasse 2
79110 Freiburg (In Breisgau)