Solar panels are becoming more and more energy-efficient over the years, making it more appealing to switch to renewable energy. However, there’s still something that prevents many people from doing so—durability. We know that solar panels can last for several years, but what about their capability to withstand hail?
Solar panels can withstand hail because of their tempered glass covering that protects the solar cells. Manufacturers ensure that these panels can handle hail, at least 25mm (1 inch) in diameter, falling at 50mph (80kph). This standard ensures most solar panels will survive a hailstorm unscathed.
However, this is not the only thing that can prove solar panels’ durability. We’ll cover everything that you need to know about their likelihood to withstand hail. Stick around because we’ll also share some tips that you can use to reduce the risk of damages during a severe hailstorm.
Are Solar Panels Durable Enough to Handle Hail?
One of the most common concerns for those who are thinking about converting to solar energy is solar panels’ durability, particularly with hail. It’s normal to be asking this question because even if you haven’t experienced problems while using solar panels, it’ll still take years before they can pay for themselves.
The continued advancement in renewable energy makes it possible for solar panels to withstand various weather conditions, such as high winds. However, how about hail where solid objects hit the panels at high speed, maybe even at a concentrated area?
The video in the link below can show you a quick answer to that. What you will see is a billiard-sized hail hitting the panel at 120 kph (74.5 mph). That’s pretty impressive, considering that many people perceive solar panels to be flimsy and fragile.
Nowadays, solar panels use tempered glass covering that can withstand extreme weather conditions. Aside from the reinforced outer layer, having the proper position for your solar panels also reduces their likelihood of getting damaged.
According to a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on 50,000 solar panels installed from 2009 to 2013, only 0.1% have been affected by various conditions year-after-year, including hail. This number combines all damaged and underperforming modules. Aside from that, most of them didn’t even have visible signs of physical damage. So, solar panels are very durable and capable of handling hail.
As we said at the beginning, one of the metrics that manufacturers use when producing solar panels is that their product should withstand hailstones at least 25mm (1 inch), falling at a speed of 23 meters per second or at least 50 miles per hour. It’s not exceptional or even close to the video that we showed you, but it’s the minimum that manufacturers should have when doing their tests.
Based on these metrics, we can say that solar panels can withstand most hailstorms without suffering major damages. However, that’s not everything we can use to determine whether solar panels can really withstand hail. In fact, these studies may not even represent what happens to solar panels in real-life. So, here’s a piece of real-life evidence that further supports solar panels’ durability:
On May 8, 2017, a hailstorm hit the west metro Denver area. Many consider it to be the “costliest” hailstorm ever recorded, damaging vehicles, houses, and infrastructures, costing an estimated $1.4 billion.
The main campus of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, was also hit. NREL has more than 3,000 solar panels on-site during that time, capable of producing more than 2.5 megawatts of photovoltaic power.
It was devastating, but it’s also the “perfect storm” for NREL because they were conducting tests on improving solar panels’ durability. One of the tests they do on-site was to shoot ping-pong-ball-sized hail at 112.7kph (70mph), hitting the same areas. The hailstorm was the ultimate test for all their research.
After the hailstorm, the staff quickly did a damage assessment on all solar panels. They found out that, out of 3,000 solar panels they have on-site, there was only one broken panel. The hailstorm took it down because it received multiple hits from larger hailstones falling at a highly concentrated area.
Can you imagine that the costliest hailstorm ever recorded could only take down one solar panel? Add that to the fact that it only happened because it was hitting the same area with larger hailstones simultaneously. That is something that goes against the perception of many people regarding solar panels’ durability.
How Likely Is It That Solar Panels Will Get Damaged?
Manufacturers ensure that their solar panels can withstand extreme weather conditions. So, it’s very rare to see physically damaged panels even after their 25 to 30-year lifespan. In fact, there are even some solar panels that can still produce energy decades after you take them out. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re indestructible, as evidenced by NREL’s experience.
The panel covering or the outer layer is very durable. It can withstand extreme conditions that even some infrastructures can’t. It’s also the reason why it’s unlikely for us to see a physically damaged solar panel, but it’s not the part that generates energy. It’s more like the case of your phone—it doesn’t do anything other than to protect the film that is responsible for generating power.
Inside every panel are interconnected silicon solar cells that are flimsy and fragile. Usually, these solar cells are only 0.20mm (0.008in) thick, making it very important for us to have an outer covering that protects them from various weather conditions. These solar cells have a bit of flex because it needs to work with the cover whenever it gets hit.
Unfortunately, too much stress on the panels can cause microcracks in these solar cells. Microcracks are invisible to the naked eye, but it’s the most common reason why solar panels malfunction. Over time, these damages accumulate, reducing the ability of solar cells to generate energy.
It’s also impossible to avoid because even the sun—the power source for these cells—can also cause microcracks. Aside from this, anything that can cause stress to the panel may trigger these cracks to appear.
So, even if solar panels can withstand hail or other extreme weather conditions, it may still cause small damages that can accumulate over time, reducing their efficiency. It would be best to do routine maintenance checks and other steps to ensure that efficiency loss won’t be as drastic even if damages occur.
How to Do the Damage Assessment Correctly
After a hailstorm, the first thing you need to do is assess the damages that it may have caused on your panels. Any damage can compromise your system, making it crucial to conduct these tests and fix them as soon as possible.
Here are the 3 crucial steps that you need to take after a hailstorm:
- Check the inverter to see if it detects issues with your panels. Your inverter can detect damages, especially when they are extensive. So, right after a hailstorm, it’s the first step that you should take. It can show you any fault in your panels, and even if it doesn’t, it’s still an indicator that it’s not generating power. If you see damages from your inverter, be sure to contact your solar company to investigate or fix the damage.
- Conduct a visual inspection to assess the damage. If you suspect that one or more of your panels are damaged, never go near it. Always conduct a visual inspection from a distance because there’s a high chance of leaking voltage. It’ll be easy to spot physical damage even from a distance, and it’ll help you assess the issue without risk.
- Get a professional to do maintenance checks and further damage assessments. Whether you see physical damage or not, it would be best to get a professional to help you do a better damage assessment. As mentioned, most of the damages that solar panels incur aren’t visible to the naked eye, so it’ll be safer for you to get a professional on-board.
Again, it’s unlikely for solar panels to get damaged if we’re only talking about average hail, but extreme cases can cause extensive damages. Regardless of how good or bad it was, it would be best to assess damages because leaking voltage poses a great risk for anyone, making it crucial to get it fixed right away.
Aside from this, most solar companies include microcracks in their warranty. So, if you detected a drastic decrease in your panels’ energy efficiency, it would be best to contact them immediately.
Protecting Your Solar Panels From Hail
Aside from the durability of solar panels, there are a lot of things that you can do to ensure that they can withstand hail. Although none of these guarantees that your panels will be unscathed after a hailstorm, these practices ensure that the risk is lower and your panels will still work efficiently. However, some of them will reduce the efficiency of your solar panels, so they shouldn’t be used as a default setting, but only added before the storm is about to hit.
Here are the best things that you can do to provide your panels with better protection from hail:
Use a Layer of Methacrylate
Although the outer covering provides sufficient protection from various weather conditions, getting additional protection won’t hurt. You can use methacrylate to cover the fragile parts of your panel and increase its durability.
However, you have to be careful when using it because it can interfere with solar cells’ functionality or block the access line to the power supply.
Use Solar Panel Protective Covers
Using metal covering for your panel is the ultimate protection that you can have. The tempered glass covering is already durable enough for most weather conditions, but installing a metal cover will make it indestructible.
Unfortunately, it’ll prevent your panels from working properly during normal days, so it would be best only to have them in place when there’s a threat of severe hailstorm.
Mount the Panels at an Angle
Mounting your panels at an angle allows them to maximize the energy they can harvest from the sun. Aside from that, it also decreases these panels’ likelihood of suffering severe damage from a hailstorm. By doing this, hailstones will only slide from your panels and won’t take the full impact.
Tilt Large Panels Vertically Before a Predicted Severe Hailstorm
Knowing the mechanism of your solar panels will also help you reduce the risk of damages from hail. When there’s a forecast of a severe hailstorm, tilt your panels vertically using a wrench.
This process won’t take more than 5 minutes, giving you enough time to prepare. It’s easy to do, and it can exponentially reduce the chances of a hailstone to hit your panels.
Monitor Weather Conditions Within Your Area
Suppose you decide to use metal covering or tilt your panels vertically before a hailstorm. In that case, the next best thing you can do is to ensure that you’re carefully monitoring your area’s weather conditions.
It’ll allow you to make quick, decisive actions that can help you protect your solar panels without putting yourself at risk.
Monitor the Performance of Your Solar Panels
Microcracks won’t cause a drastic decrease in the performance of your panels, but these cracks accumulate over time, making them more susceptible to significant damages.
That’s why anyone must monitor the performance of their solar panels consistently. It’ll let you see small fluctuations in their power efficiency, making them less likely to survive the next hailstorm.
Conduct Panel Maintenance at Least Twice a Year
As mentioned, damages on solar cells aren’t visible to the naked eye, but you still have to be proactive against these damages. The easiest way for you to ensure that your solar panels are at their best is to have them checked and maintained at least twice a year.
It also prevents your solar panels’ durability from being compromised, making them more likely to withstand hail.
Remember, most solar panels can withstand hailstorms, but doing these things will significantly improve their durability and their likelihood to withstand severe hailstorms. Of course, you don’t have to do all of them, and you may not even need any of them to protect your panels from hail.
So, it’s also essential to learn more about your area and do a bit of risk assessment to figure out which of these tips will be useful for you.
Can I Use Solar Panels in Hail Storm-Prone Areas
Will it be a good idea to use solar panels in areas that are getting the most hailstorms? That is probably the most crucial question that we need to address, and the answer is—yes.
Solar panels’ durability has always been a concern for many people, and we’ve reached a point where hail becomes less of a factor to consider when installing solar panels. The industry standard for their durability is more than enough to handle most hailstorms, and they will come out unscathed.
The only thing you should be preparing for is severe hailstorms, similar to those that hit Denver 3 years ago, but even that didn’t really cause as much damage to the solar panels as many would’ve thought. So, it’s a good idea to invest in renewable energy, even if you’re living in areas that are prone to hailstorms.
Aside from their ability to withstand hail, there are still many things that you can do to reduce the chance of your panels to get damaged. Doing one or more of the tips that we’ve shared with you will ensure that your panels are more than capable of handling hail.
Many people wonder if solar panels can withstand hail, and we already know that they’re more than capable of doing it. The main risk is for the solar cells within the solar panel to get microcracks, which will reduce the efficiency of the panel. And to avoid that risk, protecting your solar panels following the steps we have indicated above can be a good option.
If you liked this post, be sure to check “How Many Amps Does a 200-Watt Solar Panel Produce?” & “Where Should I Place My Solar Inverter?“
- Namaste Solar: Hail & Solar Panels – How Much Hail Can Solar Panels Handle?
- Kuby Energy: Solar Panels vs Hail
- Solar Time USA: How to Protect Your Solar Panels From Hail Damage
- EnergySage: Can Solar Panels Withstand Hail and Hurricanes?
- NREL.gov: Reliability and Geographic Trends of 50,000 Photovoltaic Systems in the USA
- Energy.gov: Hail No! National Lab’s Solar Panels Survive Severe Storm
- Solar Power Nerd: 10 Simple & Effective Ways On How To Protect Solar Panels From Hail
- AEF: Hail damage: Solar Panel Inspection Guide
- The Denver Post: Hailstorm that hammered west metro Denver May 8 is costliest ever for Colorado
- Energy Matters: How to Protect Your Solar Panels from Hail
- Outdoor Gear Only: Top Rated Generators, Solar Panels & Accessories
- GreenMatch: How Are Solar Panels Made?
- Positive Energy Solar: Can Solar Panels Break?
- The National Severe Storms Laboratory: Severe Weather 101: Hail Basics