How Does Hail Affect Solar Panels?

How weather can affect your green power endeavor, and ways to preserve your investment

The solar cells within photovoltaic (PV) modules or panels, commonly known as a solar panels or solar energy systems, convert sunlight into usable energy and are most commonly installed on the roof of the home, but some can be converted to free-standing units, supported by either poles or complex sun angle tracking units.

Due to their position on the rooftops of homes and businesses all over the world, solar panels are exposed to unpredictable extremes of weather. In order to function efficiently and make the most of available light, they must be able to endure the opposite effects of the weather spectrum. These weather patterns may involve fierce, penetrative hail.

Solar panels and hail

Researchers from the California University of Technology worked with SAO and NASA to ascertain the effect of hail on photovoltaic solar panels. They discovered that panels incorporating clear silicon material were likely to be damaged by 1-inch diameter hailstones, while solar panels covered in acrylic were able to withstand stimulated hailstones of up to 2 inches in diameter.

Arizona State University has one of the largest solar panel testing facilities in the world. In recent and numerous studies, staff from ASU have subjected photovoltaic solar panels to simulated hailstones fired at high speed from pneumatic guns. The panels have been pelted with a range of different-sized hailstones, frozen, shaken and baked in order to test their durability. Findings show that a solar panel is strong enough to withstand hailstones 1 inch in diameter, traveling up to 50 miles per hour under standard test conditions.

According to Californian photovoltaic specialist and solar marketing analyst Rich Hessler, even if a hailstone hit at a velocity of 120 miles per hour, the solar energy system won’t be damaged as long as the frames don’t collapse or the glass splinters don’t wreck the cell itself.

Hailstorms and solar panels in the United States

Hessler states that the majority of hailstorms affecting the mainland United States arise from the north, the opposite side to which solar panel arrays are positioned on rooftops around the country. It’s very unlikely that a huge hailstone would make impact with the cells, given the direction of the storm and the tilt of the solar module.

Precautions

Hessler suggests that in areas prone to large hailstorms, a special thin film panel be used. This amorphous material can take direct, violent strikes from rock-sized objects without suffering damage.

John Shaw, a solar panel engineer with Bella Energy, recommends ensuring that your homeowner’s insurance will cover any hail damage done to solar paneling in the unlikely event that hailstones shatter the cells.

Benefits of solar energy outweigh risks of damage

Although rare occasions of hailstorms have caused damage to photovoltaic paneling and solar modules, the benefits of deriving energy from a natural source outweigh the slim possibility that this may happen.

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