Our website address has changed from esv.vic.gov.au to energysafe.vic.gov.au – please update your bookmarks.

Large-scale solar farms

This page provides clarity on the compliance requirements for working on a large scale solar farm

Who can work on large-scale solar farms?

Requirements

Following enquiries from industry, other regulators and electrical workers Energy Safe Victoria is providing clarity on the compliance requirements for this type of electrical installation work – large scale solar farms.

  • A licensed electrician must install any electrical equipment that normally operates at a voltage greater than extra low voltage (ELV), that is, 50V ac or 120V ripple free dc in an electrical installation.
  • Electrical equipment is defined as any appliance, wire, fitting, cable, conduit or apparatus that generates, uses, conveys or controls (or that is intended to generate, use, convey or control) electricity.
  • An electrical installation is electrical equipment that is fixed or to be fixed in, on, under or over any land but does not include a supply network that is owned or operated by a major electricity company. All electrical equipment that operates at a voltage greater than ELV must be installed and connected by a licensed electrician.

Exceptions

  • An apprentice electrician or supervised electrical worker can perform the work if supervised by a licensed electrician. An apprentice electrician is a person who has a contract of training as an electrician registered with Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA).
  • An unlicensed person can work on wiring supports and enclosures under the effective supervision of a licenced electrician.
  • On 1 July 2021 Automatic Mutual Recognition (AMR) commenced in Victoria for occupations that require an electrical worker’s licence to work in Victoria. AMR means that licensed electrical workers from participating jurisdictions will no longer need to obtain a licence or registration in Victoria to undertake activities they are already licensed for in their home state.

    Electrical workers holding electrical licences or registrations issued by regulators from these jurisdictions may automatically carry out the work they are licensed for in Victoria provided that they first notify Energy Safe Victoria of their intent to work in Victoria under AMR arrangements:
    • New South Wales (NSW)
    • Northern Territory (NT)
    • Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
    • South Australia (SA)
    • Tasmania (TAS)

The remaining states, Western Australia (WA) and Queensland (QLD) have committed to joining the AMR scheme in the near future. For more information see Interstate electrical workers

Penalties

  • If a person other than a licenced electrician carries out or offers to carry out any electrical installation work, they may be subject to a penalty of up to $ 9,218.
  • A penalty of up to $46,230 may apply to an electrical contractor who employs a person other than a licensed electrical installation worker to carry out electrical installation work.

In the case of a solar farm a ‘non-electrician’, often referred to as a trades’ assistant, can dig trenches, footings and other civil works, fetch and carry tools and materials, erect solar panel support frames, attach panels (if ELV) and other mechanical tasks. They cannot install or connect combiner boxes, direct buried cables, inverters, earthing systems or attach cables to structures.

They can, under the supervision of an electrician, work on wiring supports and enclosures.

Applicable legislation

The legislative requirements cascade from the Electricity Safety Act 1998 (The Act) to the Electricity Safety (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 2020, Wiring Rules and Government Gazette G17 1999.

See Legislations and Regulations

Definitions from the Act

Electrical connection work means connecting or disconnecting electrical equipment to or from a supply of electricity.

Electrical equipment means any appliance, wire, fitting, cable, conduit or apparatus that generates, uses, conveys or controls (or that is intended to generate, use, convey or control) electricity.

Electrical installation means electrical equipment that is fixed or to be fixed in, on, under or over any land but does not include a supply network that is owned or operated by a major electricity company.

Electrical installation work means installation, alteration, repair or maintenance of an electrical installation.

Definitions from the Electricity Safety (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 2010

Effective supervision, in relation to electrical work, means being

  • present at the site of the electrical work to the extent necessary to ensure that the work is being correctly performed and carried out in accordance with the Act and any of the regulations relating to the work and the operation of electrical installations and supply networks
  • aware of the details of the electrical work being performed and giving detailed instructions and directions with respect to the electrical work.

Licensed electrician means an electrical installation worker holding a licence issued under section 40 of the Act for electrical installation work in accordance with Regulation 22.

Definitions from the Wiring Rules AS/NZS 3000

Voltage

Differences of potential normally existing between conductors or between conductors and earth as follows:

  • Extra-low voltage: Not exceeding 50V a.c. or 120 V ripple-free d.c.
  • Low voltage: Exceeding extra-low voltage, but not exceeding 1,000 V a.c. or 1,500 V d.c.
  • High voltage: Exceeding low voltage.

Wiring enclosure

A pipe, tube, duct, conduit or cable trunking, fixed or supported in position in accordance with the appropriate requirements of this Standard, for the housing or protection of sheathed or unsheathed cables.

Relevant sections of the Act

S30 Contractors

A person must not carry on or offer to carry on or hold out that the person carries on or is willing to carry on any class of electrical contracting that, under the regulations, is a prescribed class of electrical contracting for the purposes of this Division unless the person is registered under this Division as an electrical contractor in respect of electrical contracting of that class and holds the prescribed insurance (if any).

Penalty:

  • In the case of a natural person – 50 penalty units,
  • In the case of a body corporate – 250 penalty units.

S36 Electrical contractors not to employ certain persons

  • A person (the contractor) must not employ a person (the worker) to carry out, in the course of a business carried on by the contractor, electrical installation work that, under the regulations, is a prescribed class of electrical installation work for the purposes of this Division, unless—
    • the contractor is a registered electrical contractor under this Division; and
    • the worker is a licensed electrical installation worker under this Part in respect of electrical installation work of that class.

Penalty:

  • In the case of a natural person – 50 penalty units
  • In the case of a body corporate – 250 penalty units.

S38 Electrical workers

A person must not carry out or offer to carry out or hold out that the person carries out or is willing to carry out any class of electrical work that, under the regulations, is a prescribed class of electrical work for the purposes of this Division, unless the person is either licensed under this Division as:

  • an electrical installation worker in respect of electrical installation work of that class
  • an electrical inspector in respect of electrical inspection work of that class
  • an electrical connection worker in respect of electrical connection work of that class
  • an electrical equipment worker in respect of electrical equipment work of that class
  • authorised under an accepted ESMS in respect of electrical work of that class.

Penalty: 50 penalty units.

S39 Apprentices deemed to be licensed

An apprentice within the meaning of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 in a trade that involves carrying out electrical work is, during the period of the apprenticeship, deemed to be licensed as an electrical worker to carry out electrical work under supervision as prescribed.

Relevant regulations from the Electricity Safety (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 2020

R18 Classes of electrical installation work that require a licence

For the purposes of Division 2 of Part 3 of the Act, the following classes of electrical installation work are prescribed classes of electrical work:

  • electrical installation work carried out on an electrical installation ordinarily operated
    • at low voltage or a voltage exceeding low voltage in any area
    • at any voltage in a patient area (other than communication equipment operated at extra low voltage);
  • electrical installation work carried out on electricity generation systems including any wiring systems, switchgear, controlgear or accessories installed that are part of those generation systems
  • electrical installation work carried out on all or part of a battery energy storage system including work on associated wiring systems, switchgear, controlgear and accessories
  • electrical installation work required to carry out a primary work function relating to low voltage fixed electrical equipment that involves
    • the disconnection of that electrical equipment or a component of that electrical equipment; and
    • the reconnection of that electrical equipment or component of that electrical equipment or the connection of other equipment or any component of equivalent power and current in the same location and without alteration to existing cables; and
    • the testing of that electrical equipment or a component of that electrical equipment; and
    • fault finding in relation to that electrical equipment or a component of that electrical equipment
  • electrical installation work required to carry out a primary work function relating to low voltage fixed electrical equipment that involves
    • the disconnection of that electrical equipment or a component of that electrical equipment
    • the reconnection of that electrical equipment or component of that electrical equipment or the connection of other equipment or any component of equivalent power and current in the same location and without alteration to existing cables
    • the testing of that electrical equipment or a component of that electrical equipment.

R23 Supervised electrical installation worker's licence

For the purposes of section 40 of the Act, Energy Safe may issue a licence to a person under which the person may carry out all electrical installation work of the classes prescribed by regulation 18(a), (b) and (c) under the effective supervision of a licensed electrician for a period not exceeding 3 years if Energy Safe is satisfied that—

  1. the person has
    1. completed a 4 year contract of training as an electrician that included at least 12 months experience in carrying out electrical installation work
    2. partially completed the Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician
    3. satisfactorily completed a practical examination conducted by Energy Safe or a body approved by Energy Safe in safe work practices
  2. the person's standard of qualifications, proficiency and experience in electrical installation work is at least of an equivalent standard to that required under paragraph (a) or (b).
  3. the safe work practices examination specified in sub-regulations (1)(a)(iii) and (1)(b)(iii) must have been satisfactorily completed within 5 years of the date of the person's application.

Relevant references from Gazette G17 1999

"work on wiring supports and enclosures under the effective supervision of a licensed electrician".


This information is provided as guidance and is not intended to be a complete list of tasks or regulatory requirements, for more information contact Energy Safe on 03 9203 9700.


Date: 20/06/2024 0:01

The material in this print-out was accurate at the time of printing.

Reviewed