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Solar Panels and Wildfires

Jessica PirroAugust 12, 202010340

Solar Panels and Wildfires

If you live in California, you know it’s that time of year again… Fire season. The dry season has brought on a slew of fires throughout the state. So far the state hasn’t issued any power shut-offs but based on last year's experience, California residents are expecting power shut-offs anywhere between September and October.

During the fire season, a lot of homeowners are looking for ways to protect themselves from not only the fires but now they are looking for ways to protect themselves from the power companies turning their power off.

While some homeowners are fretting over the power outage because they rely on the utilities to power nearly everything in their homes. But some homeowners are going to be prepared for the power outage, due to installing a solar power system paired with solar batteries for backup power.

Here’s what your need to know about wildfires and solar panels.

Can Solar Panels Survive a Fire?

When solar panels are created, they are specifically designed to withstand extreme weather, and there have been cases where the solar panels stayed mounted to the roof after a hurricane removed the rooftop of the home. Solar panels are built to withstand snow, heavy winds, hail, and heat. But it is pretty safe to say that solar panels aren’t going to be fireproof. If your home catches fire, you will more than likely lose your solar panel installation. 

You are going to want to make sure that the solar panels aren’t going to cause fires. Manufacturers are continually improving their solar panels, this includes making sure that their solar panels meet building and fire codes and aren’t going to contribute to wildfires.

How Much Hear Can Solar Panels Withstand?

Say your house doesn’t catch on fire, but the flames are very close, can your solar power system survive that heat? The answer to that question is a little complicated. Yes, there have been plenty of tests that have been done to test how much heat solar panels can handle, but it is the environment's heat, not typically heat coming from flames that are tested.

The solar panels specifically designed to withstand a lot of heat. Most of the biggest commercial solar panel installations are going to be in some of the hottest, driest parts of the country. Residential solar panel installations in Southern California can endure high temperatures due to most rooftops being extremely hot.

Solar Panel Installation and Smoke

You don’t have to be in the direct pathway of a wildfire, for it to affect your solar panel installation. The smoke from a wildfire isn’t just bad for your lungs, but it is also bad for solar power production. An interesting fact, when the fire burns the vegetation and other things, it emits soot and aerosol particles into the air. These things hinder the amount of sunlight that is hitting your solar panels,

Wildfires can take homeowners of days or weeks for firefighters to get under control. Of you live in an area that is affected by a wildfire, you may notice that your solar panel installations are going to be less efficient. Just how much the solar power systems efficiency falls is going to depend on a few factors; how close you are to the fire, the direction of the smoke, and the direction of the wind. If you do live in an area that is prone to wildfires, you may want to check your solar panel installation performance before and during the fire to see how the solar power system’s performance is going to be affected by the smoke in the area.

What Happens if Ash Gets on My Solar Panel Installation?

Another issue that wildfires create for solar panels is going to be ash. If have ever experienced a wildfire, you probably have walked out to ash falling on you, or ash in your car. Fires themselves generate wind, and during fire season the fires are typically accompanied by high winds. These winds blow ashes throughout the community. If there’s ash on your car, it is highly likely that your solar panels are covered in ash as well.

When anything (dust, shade, clouds, ash, etc.) covers your solar panels you are going to experience a dip in the solar power output of your solar panel installation. Even if your town didn’t have wasn’t directly impacted by a wildfire, there is a chance that your solar panel installation will be. It will be useful to make sure that your solar panels aren’t covered in ash.

If you do notice that there is ash on your solar panels, in most cases it is going to be an easy fix. Most of the time it is going to be as simple as spraying down your solar panels with a hose. If you see that hosing the solar panels off isn’t enough, you can get a squirt bottle and a soft sponge to remove the pesky layer of grime. You are going to want to be sure that you use a soft mop or a microfiber cloth to scrub your solar panels. Under no circumstance are you going to want to use a hard brush, because you run the risk of scratching and damaging your solar panels.

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