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CROSS Safety Report

Concerns about solar PV installation

Report ID: 1272 Published: 17 May 2024 Region: CROSS-UK


Overview

The reporter, a chartered engineer, considered the installation of solar PV panels on the roof of their home. The reporter was surprised to be advised by a potential supplier of the panels that there was no need for a building regulations application in respect of Part A because the installer has National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation (NICEIC) and Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certification.

Key Learning Outcomes

For building owners:

  • Seek professional advice from suitably qualified and experienced structural engineers before committing to the purchase and installation of photovoltaic (PV) panels 

For PV installers:

  • It is unlikely that calculations given by the PV panel supplier will be adequate regarding the strength of any particular roof structure. Seek professional advice from suitably qualified and experienced persons before committing to the installation of photovoltaic (PV) panels

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The reporter, a chartered engineer, considered the installation of solar PV panels on the roof of their home. The reporter was surprised to be advised by a potential supplier of the panels that there was no need for a building regulations application in respect of Part A because the installer has National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation (NICEIC) and Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certification.

The installer stated in a social media conversation with the reporter that "being registered with the MCS allows me (the installer) to issue building regulation notices through the NICEIC. Part of the MCS requirements is that you can prove you have assessed the roof structure for the additional weight and your fixings are approved".

The reporter has approached both the NICEIC and MCS for comment without response to date. The reporter is concerned that the solar PV panel supplier is not a competent person and that their assertion in respect of building regulation notices is incorrect. 

Expert Panel Comments

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There have been numerous previous CROSS Reports regarding problems encountered with the installation of solar PV panels. These can be found on the CROSS website along with a Safety Alert issued in 2016: Photovoltaic installations - structural aspects. In December 2021 CROSS summarised a report as follows:

"Generic faults in design and installation appear to be widespread, with structural safety and maintenance issues that may require great cost to resolve in the future. With increased attention on the green agenda, the use (and hence the associated potential problems) with these installations may be expected to increase."

It seems that this subject continues to be problematic.

With the increasing popularity of PV panels, it is perhaps only a matter of time before a roof fails under the increased loading from the panels

CROSS has received another report from a structural engineer who has recently viewed calculations purporting to be for a homeowner’s roof and supplied by the PV installer. In fact, the calculations were prepared by a fixings supplier for the PV fixings not for the homeowner’s roof structure and both the installer and the homeowner were not aware of this.

With the increasing popularity of PV panels, it is perhaps only a matter of time before a roof fails under the increased loading from the panels.

The National House Building Council (NHBC) has recently introduced some new guidance on solar PV panels in their 2024 Standards including guidance on fixings, which is now available on their website. See clause 7.2.26 of Chapter 7.2 on 'Pitched roofs'. 

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