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Protocol solar panel incidents creates clarity

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The Dutch Association of Insurers, together with VOAM and The Salvage Foundation, has drawn up a research protocol 'solar panel incidents'. The aim of the protocol is that all parties involved know who has to do what after an incident in which solar panel particles have been released. "We all need structure. This protocol provides direction."

In daily practice, it is not always clear who is responsible for cleaning up solar panel particles after an incident. Especially in large-scale fires, the particles can spread for miles. "This regularly leads to questions from farmers, local residents, emergency services and other stakeholders about the tasks and responsibilities of the various parties," writes the Association for Research and Advice on Environmentally Hazardous Substances (VOAM) in the research protocol.


One of the most important aspects of the protocol is that it is clear in advance how the research will be carried out, responds VOAM board member Hans de Jong. "We won't get much further with retrospective discussions."
De Jong worked hard and fast in the working group with a number of colleagues and insurers. In a few months' time, the protocol was put on paper. "We went from nothing to something in a short time and drew up a dynamic document that we can adjust immediately if necessary. For example, if new research shows that heavy metals disappear into the soil with the extinguishing water."

Hans de Jong (VOAM): "We went from nothing to something in a short time"


He emphasizes that there have been regular discussions in the working group, but mainly about details. "We have taken the protocol Incidents after asbestos fires as a basis, but have abandoned the measures that apply to such a fire. Solar panels pose another risk, which may also arise later. For example, if a child is going to play with those solar panel particles or if cows eat the glass splinters. The term dangerous must be interpreted differently for solar panels than for asbestos."


Policy officer Geerlof Van Loo of the Salvage Foundation sees the research protocol solar panel incidents mainly as an important starting point. "It is a tool that we desperately need in daily practice, because the government has not yet determined in which concentration the particles are or are not harmful in solar panels. This protocol offers us, but also other parties involved, a structured approach. We have already understood from various other parties, including rivm, that they only welcome this protocol. In that sense, we consider it a first version. It would be nice if in version two, in addition to new insights, more parties are also involved who can say more about the risks in practice, such as the veterinary service or LTO Nederland, but this is already a very nice start."

Geerlof van Loo (Salvage Foundation): "This protocol offers us a structured approach"

Social unrest

The protocol will take effect on 1 September. This means that experts, the fire brigade, the coordinators of the Salvage Foundation, but also insurers will start working according to the rules of the protocol from today. Gerard Toorenaar of the Zeeuwse Verzekeringen expresses the hope that the protocol can remove the social unrest after a fire as much as possible. "Unknown makes unloved. And causes unrest. Fires with solar panels are still a relatively new risk. They are not yet very common, but when they are there, all municipalities deal with such a fire differently. From now on, everyone involved will have clarity immediately after the fire who does what."


Toorenaar calls this control "the biggest profit for insurers". "Control is important to limit social unrest, but we should also not make it bigger than it is. The comparison with asbestos has often been made, also during the preparation of the protocol, but we really do not need those men in white suits in fires with solar panels."

Gerard Toorenaar (Zeeuwse Verzekeringen): "We shouldn't make it bigger than it is. We really don't need men in white suits!"

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