Solar Nerd articles about: Weather

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Wind damaged solar array (Credit: FEMA)
Strong winds and home solar panels: installation best practices
Solar panels intended for use on homes and businesses are remarkably strong and designed to withstand many different kinds of abuse from the weather, including rain, hail, and severe wind. In North America, test standards require that solar panels must be able to support 5,400 Pascals (Pa) of force on the front of the panel. That works out to 0.783 pounds per square inch. An average sized solar panel is about 2,500 square inches, which means that one panel can support about 2,000 pounds!
Photo of a girl clearing snow off solar panels
What happens when there is snow on your solar panels?
I live in Buffalo, a city known for chicken wings and wicked snowstorms. Despite my city’s reputation for snow, much of the year is great for solar production. Still, I can expect to lose at least a couple weeks of energy production in the middle of each winter due to snow collecting on my panels and blocking out sunlight. It doesn’t take much snow to curtail electricity production. If there’s just a light dusting, there might be enough residual heat energy in the glass to melt the snow.
Photo of a lightning strike.
Do solar panels increase the risk of a lightning strike?
There’s a lot of myths when it comes to lightning, such as lightning never striking the same place twice, or that using an umbrella in a storm puts you at greater risk of being hit by lightning. It’s understandable: lightning is a mysterious force of nature to many, and it’s also destructive, causing over $1 billion in property damage in the United States every year. When it comes to solar panels, there’s one persistent myth, which is that putting solar panels on your home can actually attract lightning to your home.
Photo of hailstones.
Can solar panels withstand hail?
Did you know that the record for a hailstone in the United States is 8 inches? According to CNN, a giant hailstone discovered in South Dakota was the size of a volleyball and weighed almost two pounds. Yikes! If an 8 inch hailstone hit your solar array, there definitely would be damage. Luckily, hail like this is extremely rare. But what about more ordinary hail? Solar panels are designed and tested to withstand hail that is rated up to “severe” by the US National Weather Service, which is hail up to one inch in size or with wind gusts up to 58 mph.
An image of the night sky.
How do home solar panels work at night, on cloudy days, or under snow?
Solar panels work by collecting sunlight and magically turning it into electricity to power your home. So does that mean when the sun goes down your electricity turns off and you can’t watch Game of Thrones? Actually, no. Read more to learn about how electricity continues to work seemlessly in a solar home, even when it’s dark, cloudy, or your panels are covered in snow. First, an explanation. Sunlight is made up of elementary particles called photons.