Making solar safe

PV testing and installer certification are needed to improve safety

As public concern escalates regarding climate change, massive oil spills and other unwelcome environmental events, the desire for clean, reliable and renewable energy continues to grow. And for an increasing number of homeowners and business owners, the idea of harvesting sunlight to meet their energy needs is more attractive than ever.

Homes' and businesses' use of solar panels clearly is increasing. The Energy Information Administration (EIA), a division of the Department of Energy, reports shipments of photovoltaic (PV) units rose from 21,000 units during 1999 to more than 520,000 cells and modules during 2008.

And EIA foresees a bright future for this endlessly renewable energy source. According to its website: "Solar radiation, which is nearly constant outside the Earth's atmosphere, varies with changing atmospheric conditions. Nevertheless, almost all U.S. regions have useful solar resources that can be accessed."

As more homeowners and business owners contemplate installing PV systems on their roofs or other parts of their buildings, it is important to address safety issues associated with managing solar power on-site.