VDE Trying To Delay Deployment of Plug&Play Solar in Germany

Franz Alt at the excellent Sonnenseite just published a release from VDE, a German private organisation active in the field of safety standards for electricity.

The VDE has published safety standards for small scale electricity generators, DIN VDE 0100-551. People so inclined can download these for the outrageous price of EUR 42.13 at the VDE publishing company’s website (link omitted on purpose).

I have not done so, and I am lacking in specialist knowledge on electricity safety anyway.

According to Alt, the VDE insists that plug&play solar panels are a very dangerous danger and should not be installed. They may cause fires, because the circuit breaker does not know of the additional electricity feed-in if you plug in your 200 W solar panel right into a wall outlet.

As a legal matter, what the VDE says is not directly binding law. The German law on product safety says in its Article 5 that technical standards like DIN “may be considered” when deciding if a product needs to be taken off the market because of safety concerns.

Again, I am not an expert. But if an extra 200 W from one solar panel is enough to cause a fire anywhere, the circuit breaker in question was seriously lacking in safety margin in the first place.

I think the VDE needs to reconsider their position. And everybody else should ignore them and install plug&play anyway.

The last thing we need in Germany is restricting market access for new forms of solar photovoltaic.

In the long run, circuit breakers need to be redesigned. There needs to be a simple way to plug your balcony solar panel in and have the circuit breaker know about the additional electricity. While I think the VDE is overcautious right now, they are the experts. If they say there is a very dangerous danger of fire, many people may believe them and refrain from buying a plug&play solar panel.

That is an unfortunate state of affairs. The VDE should deploy a new technical standard that solves the remaining safety issues. Right now they are standing in the way of dealing with global warming.

Believe me, that risk is much more serious than that of a 200 W solar panel causing a fire somewhere.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003, lenzblog.com).

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