Can a Hailstorm Damage My Solar Panels?

Carlos Huerta

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    As solar panels become more popular and affordable, homeowners and businesses alike are looking to take advantage of this renewable energy source. However, one common concern, especially in northern States, is whether solar panels can be damaged by hail or not. After all, hail can be a powerful and destructive force, capable of damaging cars, roofs, and other outdoor structures. In this article, we will explore whether solar panels can withstand hail and what standards are in place to ensure their durability.

    Figure 1. Typical Hailstorms. Source: Collision Craftsman

    Can Solar Panels Withstand Hail?

    First, it is important to understand the construction of a solar panel. Solar panels are made up of a series of cells, which are typically made from crystalline silicon. Layers of glass and other materials, which are designed to withstand a variety of weather conditions, protect these cells. However, even the strongest materials can be damaged by hail, which is why there are standards in place to test the durability of solar panels.

    One such standard is the hail test, which is used to evaluate the impact resistance of solar panels. During this test, a solar PV module is subjected to a series of 25 mm hailstones that are launched at it from a specific height and velocity, hitting different spots in the solar panel. The hailstones are typically made of ice, and their size and weight are carefully controlled to ensure consistency. The panel is then inspected for any signs of damage, such as cracks in the glass.

    The hail test is just one of several tests that solar panels may undergo to ensure their durability. Other tests may include exposure to extreme temperatures, humidity, and wind. These tests are designed to simulate real-world conditions and ensure that solar panels can withstand a variety of weather conditions over their lifetime.

    So, can solar panels be damaged by hail? The answer is yes, but it is highly unlikely to happen and it will depend on multiple factors. The size and weight of the hailstones, as well as the velocity at which they fall, will all have an important impact on the likelihood of damage. Additionally, the construction and materials of the solar panel can play a role in how well it can withstand the impact.

    Is It Frequent to Have Solar Panels Damaged By Hail?

    Not at all! Proof of this statement was actually found some years ago when a severe hailstorm hit Denver, Colorado, in 2017. Roofs, cars, and windows were smashed across the Denver metropolitan area with hailstones of up to 2.75 inches in diameter reported.

    The surprise was that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Research Support Facility, located in the area, had 3,168 solar panels installed on the roof, and from all that quantity of solar panels, only one was damaged.

    What Can Be Done To Minimize Damage From Hail?

    While it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of hail damage, some steps can be taken to minimize it. For example, some types of solar panels are designed with thicker glass or are highly impact-resistant.

    Besides, the good thing about hailstorms is that they are predictable. This means that whenever there is a hailstorm in the forecast, you can take some preventive measures such as using protective covers or using a wire gauge mesh around the panels, which will provide a preventive covering that avoids hailstones from hitting the solar panel directly.

    Moreover, if you can manually or automatically adjust the tilt angle of your solar panels (on a ground mount for instance), it will be wise to tilt them as vertically as possible, this will minimize the impact area and hence minimize the risk of damage. Another option is spraying a layer of methacrylate on the solar panel glass, although it should be done by professional personnel. This will ensure that the conversion efficiency of the solar panel will not be affected.

    What To Do If My Solar Panel Was Damaged During a Hailstorm?

    In the event that a solar panel is damaged by hail, it is important to take action quickly to minimize the impact on your solar array. This may involve contacting a professional to assess the damage and determine if the panel can be repaired or needs to be replaced.

    Additionally, it is important to document the damage and contact your homeowner insurance provider, as they may be able to cover the cost of repairs or replacement.

    Final Words: Solar Panels vs Hail

    We have seen in many cases that the force of nature can cause devastating disasters. In this case, we have found that hailstorms can be as strong as to cause damage on a solar panel.

    However, we have also seen that taking this weather phenomenon into account, solar panel manufacturers often need to comply with safety standards that require hail tests, which are done according to typical hailstone parameters for size and speed. This makes solar panels more reliable and durable with a very low probability of damage from an average hailstorm. If you still want to make sure your solar panels are safe, then additional precautions can be taken to minimize the likelihood of damage.

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