October 1, 2018

How Do Solar Panels Fare In A Hurricane?

Whenever a major storm like Hurricane Florence causes electrical grid failure, a wave of solar intrigue follows. Two questions are usually driving people’s curiosity:

How did solar panels fare during the storm?

During recent hurricanes which have made landfall in the United States, very little damage to solar arrays has been reported. In North Carolina, after hurricane Florence, only a handful of solar sites out of hundreds were found to have any damage, and most of those cases were caused by floodwaters affecting solar electrical equipment, rather than high winds wrenching on solar panels.

Solar equipment manufacturers have been making panels, racking systems, and inverters long enough to know their products need to be able to withstand the wrath of mother nature. The best manufacturers make very resilient products. The solar panels that Simpleray uses come with a twenty-five year warranty.

Solar array design and installation is the more variable stage of the solar process, because every solar array site is unique. It’s crucial that installers choose the proper panels, racking system, and electrical routing for the particular job to ensure the longevity of the solar system. Fortunately, professional installers are certified in their craft and possess valuable experience, helping to ensure that solar arrays rarely fail. With a properly installed PV system, a solar customer should be more concerned about the roof coming off their house than they are about their array coming off their roof.

Most solar arrays are tested at wind-speeds well over 100 miles per hour, and solar panels can easily withstand the impact of quarter-size chunks of hail. Rising water poses one of the few dangers to PV systems. During extreme flooding, water can reach various electrical components even if they’re mounted several feet above the ground. But again, solar installers and engineers take potential for flooding into account when crafting solar systems in flood-prone areas. The single greatest threat to a PV system is flying debris, like tree limbs. If a large piece of debris strikes someone’s house, the damage is covered by their home-owners insurance policy. Solar customers should adjust their policies to include their solar arrays, which will ensure that everything is covered by insurance in the event of an accident.

Are solar arrays able to power-on immediately after storms clear?

While solar arrays almost always emerge from a hurricane intact, not all of them can be powered-on right away. Solar arrays that don’t have a battery storage system are connected to the local power grid. While the power grid is still down, the solar array has to remain turned off. Those who do have a battery storage system can divert a portion of their power to the battery, and run electricity in their house to power basic needs while still remaining disconnected from the grid.

Though most solar battery systems only provide a small amount of storage capacity, they can be incredibly useful in emergency situations. In 2017 in Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria, the electrical grid was down for months. First responders and hospitals used solar arrays with batteries to power essential electronics like dispatch radios which helped save lives.

Solar arrays have already shown their resilience by defying storms. In the near future, as solar batteries become more affordable and subsequent solar setups utilize these new batteries, we will likely see solar arrays power-on even sooner after a disaster. A professionally installed solar array with a battery storage system is a terrific asset in any area that’s subject to severe weather patterns. In the aftermath of the worst storms, they’re often the only reliable source of electricity for residents.

by Peter Scorzetti

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