Solar energy has become a viable option for many companies to increase their green footprint, especially when environmental consciousness is at an all-time high. But improper installation of solar panels can be downright dangerous and an insurance headache.
During the 2016 Risk Management Society (RIMS) annual meeting in San Diego, AM Best’s John Weber talked to Skip Donnell, technical director of Liberty Mutual
’s engineering technical unit about the insurance risks accompanying the proliferation of solar energy.
According to Donnell, a major exposure for solar energy users is that most photovoltaic panels are placed on a building’s roof. Improper installation can cause roof damage, whether due to the panels’ placement or through mistakes in the installation process. Roof integrity can be compromised, especially if it can’t support the weight of the solar panels and other equipment. “Blind spots” on the roof can occur, which can lead to fires.
In case of a fire, firefighters need to navigate the roof differently when there are solar panels. Panel placement is critical so firefighters can still use the roof to extinguish the fire.
Donnell advised brokers, insurers, and clients to work closely in planning out the use of solar energy in an establishment. Brokers and insurers should have sufficient technical knowledge about solar energy so a concrete plan of action can be put in place to better protect clients.