Can Solar Panels Withstand Hurricanes?

The durability of your home solar system may surprise you, even in hurricane-force winds

If you’re thinking about going solar or have already done so, you may wonder how solar panels will fare in less-than-fair weather — especially if you live in a region vulnerable to hurricanes and hailstorms.

Good news: Solar panels are more durable than you may think. In fact, a look back at some of our nation’s most catastrophic storms in recent history illustrates this point.

New Jersey has one of the highest concentrations of single-family homes in America. So when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, thousands of solar customers in the state prepared for the worst. Although the region was hit hard, residents reported almost no damage to their home solar systems.*

Most solar panels even withstood the havoc Hurricane Maria caused in Puerto Rico in 2017. Although the massive storm slammed into the island with winds exceeding 150 mph, a VA hospital in San Juan — one of the most heavily affected areas — made headlines as its commercial-grade solar system was left operating at 100%.*

As you might imagine, wind, rain and hail are typically the biggest concerns when it comes to hurricane damage. Let’s take a deeper dive into these three weather phenomena to see their effect on solar panels.

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Do Solar Panels Work When It’s Raining?

During a hurricane, it’s perfectly normal to worry about rain and flooding. But if you think your solar panels won’t work in a storm, think again:

  • Solar panels are waterproof and, as a result, are usually able to continue generating energy when it rains.
  • Solar panels convert both direct and indirect sunlight into energy. While they’re more effective when they receive direct sunlight, they can still produce anywhere from 10% to 25% of their optimal capacity on cloudy and rainy days.
  • Rain can actually be good for solar panels. It’s not unusual for them to operate more efficiently after a storm, because the water washes away dust, dirt, pollen and other particles that build up over time.

Effects of Wind on Solar Panels

Wind is another factor that may contribute to damage in a hurricane. High winds blowing from all directions can wreak havoc on even the most well-built homes.

Since solar panels are positioned slightly above the surface of the roof, uplift may be a concern.

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  • Uplift can happen when wind forces its way between the roof and the solar panels, causing the hardware and modules to lift up or come loose.
  • With proper installation of quality solar panels, you won’t have to worry about uplift except in the case of extreme weather.
  • Reputable manufacturers put their solar panels through intense testing to ensure they’re built to withstand uplift and various wind patterns.
  • If your area is prone to high winds, your solar installer can make expert recommendations based on their experience.

Can Solar Panels Resist Hail Damage?

Hail Damage on Car

Have you ever left your car out in a hailstorm only to find it had more dimples than a golf ball afterward?
Then you know firsthand the damage these specks of icy rain can cause.

But fortunately, when it comes to hail, most solar panels are certified to stand up against 1-inch hail falling at approximately 50 mph.* When damage from hail does occur, it’s usually caused by concentrated impact in small areas.

And it’s rare, a point well illustrated by recent severe weather in Denver. In May 2017, the Mile-High City was pelted with baseball-sized hail. The hailstorm provided the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) located in the city with the perfect opportunity to test the durability of the more than 3,000 solar panels on its rooftops.*

Despite the size and force of the hail that hammered down on the lab, only one solar panel was damaged, a true testament to the fact that today’s panels are built to last.

Before a Hurricane

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  • Many homeowners take photos of their valuables and other treasured belongings as proof of the condition of these items, should they need to file a claim with their insurance provider for future damage to them.
  • This is also a good strategy for your solar panels. It’s a good idea to take photos (both print and digital) of your solar panels before a hurricane or hailstorm and store hard copies of the pictures with your insurance policies and other important documents.
  • When you choose Sunnova’s solar lease or PPA option for your home solar system, you’ll be covered by our 25-year Sunnova Protect® Platinum Plan, which covers the equipment and labor to repair the system if it sustains any damage during a hurricane or hailstorm.
  • For homeowners in Puerto Rico who opt for a loan, Sunnova will provide insurance for damage caused by tropical weather events and earthquakes if the homeowner’s policy does not cover it.

After a Hurricane

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  • After the hurricane or hailstorm has passed, you may want to assess any damage to your solar panels. Be careful not to touch any loose, damaged or displaced panels or wires, as they may still be energized and producing power.
  • Take photos of any destruction, and, if you’re a Sunnova customer, reach out to our customer service team and we’ll help you address your damage right away.
  • Contact Customer Service or call 855.277.6379.
  • Reputable manufacturers put their solar panels through intense testing to ensure they’re built to withstand uplift and various wind patterns.
  • If your area is prone to high winds, your solar installer can make expert recommendations based on their experience.

Preparation is Key

Your best defense for protecting your solar panels in a hurricane or hailstorm is to be prepared ahead of time. Following the tips provided can give you peace of mind, or a sense of direction, regardless of what Mother Nature brings your way.

Now that you understand how well solar panels survive in hurricanes and hailstorms, request a no-obligation quote and be on your way to generating your own renewable energy today.

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Preparation is key