Rapid Shutdown of Photovoltaic Module Series Strings
With the increasing number of Photovoltaic (PV) power systems being installed on buildings and the concern of emergency first responders (firemen) that these high voltages on buildings represent a hazard to first responders, the National Electrical Code (NEC) has added requirements intended to address this hazard. Many PV power systems use a design with many series connected PV modules (termed ‘strings’) to simplify wiring and increase efficiency. Presently these systems can use strings with cold open circuit voltages of up to 600 volts DC on residences, up to 1000 volts on non-residential buildings, and up to 1500 volts in utility scale installations. The problem is that even if the wires from the PV array are disconnected, high voltages remain and emergency responders could be exposed to high voltages even if all electrical power is shut off for the building.


To address this hazard, the NEC added Section 690.12 Rapid Shutdown of PV Systems on Buildings in the 2014 edition. The requirements were refined in the 2017 edition. Methods and designs for achieving the proper rapid shutdown are not addressed by the NEC but instead are addressed in the product standards (such as UL Standards) for this type of equipment. The figure below from the September/October issue of Solar Pro magazine (see solarprofessional.com) illustrates the requirements.