The 2011 National Electrical Code® requires PV DC series arc-fault protection but does not require parallel arc-fault protection. As a result, manufacturers are creating arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) which only safely de-energize the arcing circuit when a series arc-fault occurs. Since AFCI devices often use the broadband AC noise on the DC side of the PV system for detection and series and parallel arc-faults create similar frequency content, it is likely an AFCI device will open in the event of either arc-fault type. In the case of parallel arc-faults, opening the AFCI will not extinguish the arc and may make the arc worse, potentially creating a fire. Due to the fire risk from parallel arc-faults, Tigo Energy and Sandia National Laboratories studied series and parallel arc-faults and confirmed the noise signatures from the two arc-faults types are nearly identical. As a result, three alternative methods for differentiating parallel and series arc-faults are presented along with suggestions for arc-fault mitigation of each arc-fault type.
Index Terms — photovoltaic systems, arc-fault detection, series and parallel arc-faults, sensors, monitoring, power system safety.