What Can Happen to Your Solar System During Wildfire Season

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Going solar today can help provide peace of mind for whatever Mother Nature brings

Wildfires are worsening across North America. Widespread drought and higher temperatures are turning mountainsides into matchboxes. Each year, the fire outlook is seemingly bleaker than the year prior.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that more people are embracing renewables and resilience measures that can help communities mitigate wildfire risk. By installing solar panels and battery storage, homeowners can decrease their reliance on fossil fuel-generated electricity while keeping their homes and communities powered if the grid goes down.

What Happens to Solar Panels in a Fire?

In the tragic event that a wildfire engulfs your home, the chance that your solar panels will survive is slim. Like most electrical infrastructure, solar equipment can combust under intense heat and flames. Aside from the obvious damage — melted modules, cracked cables, and solar cells that appear cloudy — your solar system may suffer thermal stress not visible to the naked eye. This damage could unfold over time, causing safety issues.

Solar Panel Installation

Wildfires’ Effects on Panel Efficiency

Solar Panels on Roof

Your panels will still produce electricity on cloudy days and rainy days, but expect production to be lower than it would be on a day with full sun. Wildfire smoke, however, presents a unique challenge. Not only can the smoke block sunlight, but tiny particles can accumulate on your home solar system and hinder production even more.

For instance, when California endured a record-breaking 2020 fire season, researchers recorded a 30% decrease in solar panel efficiency levels.* Even when the surrounding skies don’t appear particularly smoky, winds can carry tiny smoke particles that decrease surface-level sun exposure up to thousands of miles away.

Your Responsibilities as a Solar Customer

Solar Panels

A decrease in production can happen with any type of smoke, not just wildfire smoke. If you have a wood-burning stove or regular bonfires during the summer, make sure to use dry wood as wet wood generates more smoke and efficiency-degrading soot. Properly cured logs produce the least amount of ash and can help preserve your panels’ efficiency levels.

Regularly rinsing your panels can keep dust and debris away and help cool them down in the summer months, thereby avoiding the efficiency-degrading effects of overheating. (Solar panels are most efficient at temperatures below 77 degrees F*). As they grow hotter, production levels generally decrease.

Sunnova’s up to 25-Year Solar Warranty

When you go solar with a lease or power purchase agreement (PPA) with Sunnova for a home solar or solar plus battery system, you’ll be covered by our up to 25-year warranty, the Sunnova Protect®; Platinum plan.

In addition to maintenance, monitoring and repairs, this solar warranty covers damage, theft and destruction (providing you aren’t grossly negligent or intentionally damage your system).*

If you own your solar system via a solar loan, your system won’t be covered by Sunnova in the event of a loss.

Sunnova Protect System Coverage

Be sure to add your system to your homeowner’s insurance policy and confirm that it would be covered in the event of fire-related damage to your system, whether this is heat or direct flames.

Still, you’ll want to keep your solar panels free of debris and obstructions to help keep your system operating at optimum levels

Now is the Time to Plan for Fire Season

Sunnova Rep with Customers

It’s never too early to plan for wildfire season. Through Sunnova, it takes an average of three months from the time you get a quote to the day your system is up and running. Don’t wait until the first blaze of the season erupts to start your wildfire mitigation planning. Going solar today can help provide greater peace of mind for whatever Mother Nature brings.

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