Can My Solar Panels Withstand a Hurricane?

By Isaac Ost
07 June 2018
Hurricanes and Solar Panels

If you live in an area that experiences extreme weather like hurricanes, hail, thunderstorms, blizzards, heavy winds and more, then you should take the time to learn about how your solar panels may be affected by these conditions. A typical residential solar panel system costs around $15,000, and as with any large investment, you need to ensure that your property is protected.

One way to do this is by purchasing insurance for your solar panels, however, hurricanes and large storms are not always not covered. This makes it even more important for you to understand how your solar panel system will hold up in these sort of events.

Your solar insurance will cover things like fire, lightning, theft, and water damage, so this gives you a bit more assurance that your panels will be protected. Insurance typically does not cover flooding, flying debris, and other acts of god.

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In the event of a hurricane or extreme storm, knowing how durable your specific solar panels are will give you confidence in whether or not your system is protected. Although rare, hurricanes that hit the United States can cause serious damage and occur about 1.75 times per year. Hurricane Harvey, which hit Houston, Texas in late August of 2017 caused 68 deaths and around $125 billion worth of damage.

Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida a few weeks after on September 10th and caused roughly $50 billion in damage. Last year was a very bad year for hurricanes in the gulf states, and due to climate change, there is reason to believe that these types of storms may increase in frequency and severity.

How Much Can Your Solar Panels Withstand

One reason why solar panels are so expensive is that they are manufactured to a very high quality. As a result, most high-end solar panels can withstand practically any environmental condition. When looking at hurricanes specifically, there are a couple of characteristics that you want to focus on.

The biggest damage that a hurricane can cause to a solar panel system comes from wind and water exposure. Theoretically, strong enough winds could dislodge your solar panels from their mounting structure or cause debris or other objects to hit them, but this is all dependent on how strong the winds are. Water damage is also possible, but most insurance will cover this.

Because of all this, a solar panel’s wind load rating is especially important when determining how the panel can hold up in an extreme storm. The wind load is measured in pascals, which is a unit of measurement that, in materials science, represents the stiffness and strength of a material. Most solar panels are manufactured to withstand up to 2,400 pascals, which is the same as winds of approximately 140 MPH, but the durability varies from state to state due to their different solar laws.

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Florida is one of the best states in terms of solar potential, but they are also the states that experience the majority of hurricanes in the United States. There are millions of potential solar consumers that live in areas exposed to these types of conditions, so manufacturers almost always design their solar panels with hurricanes in mind. Florida, for example, has rules in place that require the majority of panels that can be installed to be able to withstand winds of at least 160 MPH, or 3,300 pascals. The panels that Pick My Solar provides in Florida can easily withstand more than this amount.

Here's a clip of a solar manufacturer's test of a solar panel against hurricane speed winds:

Nothing to Worry About

Unless you are unlucky enough to be caught in one of the worst hurricanes in history, you should not worry about your solar panel system getting damaged in a severe storm or even in a common hurricane. There are several cases where solar panel systems came out almost completely damage free after huge hurricanes like Hurricane Harvey and Irma, as well as other severe storms including a hail storm in the Denver area that only damaged one out of 3,000 solar panels.

At the end of the day, the type of conditions that will lead to your solar panels being destroyed are also the same conditions that would likely destroy your entire home. With this in mind, you can sleep comfortably knowing that your panels can withstand even some of the most extreme weather you may experience.

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