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Solar panels: firefighters' clean-energy foe

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(Read caption) A worker cleans solar panels on the rooftop of the Yiwu International Trade City in Yiwu, Zhejiang province in China. The spread of rooftop solar has made firefighting more challenging.

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The proliferation of solar power may have at least one downside: It makes firefighting harder.  

Firefighters say solar panels can block access to buildings in emergency situations, make it harder to cut holes in the roof to release flames and gases, and pose threats from tripping to electrocution. With more and more photovoltaic systems going up on homes and businesses across the United States, it's a growing problem.

Even solar advocates concede there's a challenge, although they say it can be mitigated.

"We are working very closely with firefighters across the United States on the development of codes and standards. After every incident, we learn from it and improve," Ken Johnson, a spokesman for the Solar Energy Industries Association trade group, told Reuters. "Firefighters don't have a good idea of how solar works. It's incumbent in us to do a better job in educating them."


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