By Lilia Guan
An audit by the New South Wales Government has found up to 18.5 per cent of installations have major defects.
Premier Barry O'Farrell said the review of 658 homes in Sydney's north-west by Fair Trading inspectors found widespread defects in solar panel units.
He said 18.5 per cent had major defects and 63.5 per cent had minor defects.
The major defects related primarily to incorrect installation of some components or incorrect wiring while the minor defects generally related to incorrect marking and signage.
Mr O'Farrell said of the 120,000 homes in NSW with solar installations, only two had reported minor fires in their fuse boxes.
The most important advice to householders was NOT to turn off their solar panel systems but to call a qualified expert if they were concerned that their installation may be defective, he stated.
NSW Fair Trading can also take action against substandard installations of solar panels where complaints are lodged.
Mr O'Farrell said electricity distributors were now writing to customers with detailed advice on what to do and are standardising their inspection procedures to check that solar PV systems are properly connected to the electricity network.
"Where major defects were found during this audit the systems were shut down by Fair Trading Inspectors and the owners informed,” he said.
"Fair Trading is also contacting the installers responsible for the defective work and directing them to rectify the problems.”
However the renewable energy industry has allayed consumer concerns about household solar power systems.
Clean Energy Council, chief executive Matthew Warren solar systems were safe and the risk to solar households was very low.
The Clean Energy Council represents about 300 solar companies and is responsible for the accreditation of solar installers.
"The main issue identified by the NSW Government related to a particular type of switch called a DC circuit breaker that has been installed incorrectly in some systems,” he said.
"This is not a new issue. It first came to the attention of government and industry late last year and remedial action has been underway since
December. We will continue to work with the NSW Government to address this problem and to ensure that it is fixed."
Most of the defects identified by the NSW Government in its audit of 658 systems related to incorrect marking and signage.
The "major" defects mostly related to incorrectly installed DC circuit breakers, Mr Warren said.
He believed there had been only three minor incidents reported from more than 300,000 solar panel installations nationwide, and no actual house fires.
An information sheet for households about DC circuit breakers is available on the Clean Energy Council website.
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