Solar is one of the world’s most inexpensive renewable energy sources. Once you have a system fitted, that is. In Australia, solar power system installation is big business. More than 20% of Australian households are now fitted with a solar power system that costs an average of AUD$5,000 for a 5kW capacity set-up.
But can something as ordinary as hail damage your solar panels and what can you do to protect your important investment?
Solar PV (photovoltaic) panels are made up of silicon cells structured in three different forms, monocrystalline, polycrystalline or amorphous. Most solar panels have two layers of these silicon cells. The top layer contains chemicals that create a positive charge while the bottom layer has chemicals that create a negative charge. This generates a charged field. When light particles reach the charged field, electrons are knocked from their atoms creating electricity.
The whole solar panel is covered in a layer of tempered glass. This glass is a key component of the panel as it ensures as much light as possible is filtered into the silicon cells. However, extreme weather can damage the glass.
Solar panels are durable. Manufacturers of solar panels put their product through rigorous testing to ensure they’re fit for purpose and won’t break when exposed to normal weather conditions.
While severe hailstorms are rare in Australia, they do happen. In December 2018, New South Wales experienced a hailstorm that caused catastrophic damage. In 2017, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Denver, Colorado was able to test its solar panels under live conditions. A major hailstorm hit the lab and 2.75-inch hailstones caused $2.3 billion in damages across the state. Miraculously, the more than 3,000 panels on the roof of the lab were almost untouched. Only one panel was damaged.
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The quality of your solar panels comes into play here. The better the quality of the panel and its components, the less likely it is to be damaged by impact. LG panels, for example, promise to withstand hailstones of up to 28mm in width and frost of -40 degrees without cracking.
If you do experience a severe hailstorm and are concerned about your solar panels, here are a few things you should know.
So, it seems hail can damage your solar panels. It’s unlikely but at least you know what to do if the unlikely occurs!