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O'Farrell: Get solar panels checked

4th Jul 2011

The 120,000 households across New South Wales currently generating solar energy with rooftop panel systems have been urged by the premier to have them checked by a qualified professional.

Last week, the government released the results of an audit on panel systems in north-west Sydney carried out by the Department of Fair Trading.

Of the 658 solar energy generation systems, 122 were found to have significant problems - many of which are related to wiring and could represent a potential fire hazard.

Speaking to reporters in Sydney, Barry O'Farrell urged homeowners to have an expert - such as the original installer - assess the safety of the panels rather than switching off their systems and examining them themselves.

He said that while the findings represent "a serious warning", the risk of a fuse box fire is relatively low.

An education campaign to explain to households how to check their systems will be launched immediately by the state government, O'Farrell remarked, adding that anyone who wants an independent check or is unhappy with the work carried out by a solar installer should consult the list of accredited solar electricians supplied by the Clean Energy Council.

"The key message now is for householders to follow the safety advice - which means not fiddling with their installations, but calling in an expert to do any checks instead," said O'Farrell.

The premier commented that the problems with many of the panel systems installed in New South Wales are a result of the "botched" Solar Bonus Scheme introduced by the previous Labor government.

In a rush to install panels, mistakes were made, he explained.

O'Farrell said: "The scheme was too generous, there was a rush to get panels installed and we have ended up with many homes having defective systems."

In addition to the major issues found in the report, a number of minor defects - including cabling, marking and signage issues - were identified in 63.5 per cent of homes where solar energy panels had been installed.

Speaking to the ABC, Port Macquarie-based solar electrician Jamie Harrison commented that the results of the solar panel audit are likely to differ across the state, as different energy companies are responsible for local installations.

He remarked that while residents on the mid-north coast of NSW should not be alarmed by the findings in Sydney, it is important to ensure panels are safe.

In particular, worried residents should check their DC isolator, which was highlighted as an "overwhelming issue that keeps coming back" in the Sydney findings.

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