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How Do Solar Panels Handle the Wind?

Jessica PirroApril 26, 20191790

In every state, homeowners have different concerns for their panels and how they will fare in natural disasters. In states like California a concern is how a homeowners panels will hold up in an Earthquake. In Vermont homeowners are concerned how their panels would last in the snow.

But one real world aspect that most places have in common is the wind.

In places like Florida, hurricanes bring high wind speeds. Then there’s states like Oklahoma that have tornadoes that bring even higher wind speeds. There are even times of the year in California that bring high wind speeds.

For homeowners that are considering solar, it helps to know all the facts when it comes to how their panels will fare in the wind.

The simple answer is, solar panels will usually do quite well in the wind.

Solar panels typically are very resistant to damages that would be caused by the wind. In most cases when there is damaged done in the wind it isn’t because the panel itself couldn’t withstand the conditions. Rather when there is damages done to a solar array in the wind it is usually because of the racking system or the roof that the system is mounted on is weak.

There is a small space that exists between the solar panels and the roof (on ground mounting systems this space is between the panels and the ground), that the wind tends to blow through and lift the panels upward.

When the wind does this, it is a possibility it could tare these panels from their mounts. In some cases there has even been instances where the winds have been so strong that they tore sections of the roof from the house. However the racking was so strong that the solar panels stayed intact.

A real life example of solar panels lasting in the wind, would be Hurricane Sandy. In 2012 one of the places that was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy was New Jersey, which is one of the highest solar power capacities in the United States.

Right before the hurricane hit, New Jersey had just added 130 megawatts off solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity. After Sandy the analysis showed that there was very little to no damage done to recently added PV systems.  

A spokesperson for a solar installer who serviced over 200 people in the parts of New Jersey that were hit the hardest, said that a few of the metal casing covering the wires were damaged by flooding and a large system had only two panels that came loose.

Another thing that can damage the panels, isn’t the wind itself, however it is the debris that comes with the wind. The wind can carry pretty large materials that can get blown into the solar panels and cause some damage.

 

There are building codes that promote wind resistant arrays.

In areas that often have hurricanes or are plagued with a lot of tornadoes, such as Texas or Oklahoma, there are policies to protect your panels from the wind. These policies are put in place by local governments and they usually require a certain level of durability for the rooftop solar arrays.

In certain area’s in Florida, where hurricanes are predicable, the panels must be able to withstand high winds that reach up to 170 miles per hour. This makes it mandatory for solar panel installers to test their panels, racking and the rest of the equipment to make sure that it can stay on your roof in these less than ideal weather conditions.

The majority of solar installers follow the engineering guidelines which are set by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in their Minimum Design Loads standard book. The ASCE doesn’t mandate certain wind resistance levels, but they do highlight a standard testing procedure for solar panels of wind resistance levels.

By following this procedure, it ensures that solar panel installations across the nation are all compared to a common standard. It also is a good way to ensure that your solar installer is putting all of their equipment through the correct and verified testing methods.

Certain places have local building codes that include ASCE 7-10, which is a specific ASCE wind-specific standard. This code is put in place to make sure that solar installers are abiding by the national building standards.  

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