This time of year, any time we’re talking with a new potential solar customer, we tend to get a lot of questions about extreme weather.
Can solar panels make it through the high winds and hard rain of a hurricane? If damage were to occur, is it covered under warranty? With battery storage, can I expect to keep some lights and important circuits online in my house all during the storm? Are most solar customers’ installations still running in areas where hurricanes have hit? (To which we of course replied, “Yep, and they better go catch ‘em!”)
Let’s tackle those common questions and give you all the information you need to know about hurricane season and rooftop solar panels.
Bottom line: Your solar should make it through fine
Solar systems weather hurricanes all the time, none the worse afterward than before. This story following Hurricane Florence focused on how solar systems got through the storm fine, even continued producing in places where the grid stayed up or where energy storage was used.
Maybe you’ve heard about electric utilities shutting down different kinds of energy sources before an oncoming storm, like a nuclear power station or a solar farm. This can give a misleading impression of what energy sources we should be relying on in severe weather situations. The reasons given for these actions are different - the utility would take a precautionary approach and in the case of the nuclear plant, would take it offline because a loss of power would interfere with the ability to cool the units.
For solar, the only reason would be to avoid a situation where power lines in the area of the solar installation are energized without line workers being aware. In the case of a home, as long as it’s not a case of heavy flooding, structural collapse, fire, or down tree on the home, there would be no reason to manually shut down solar energy production.
If panels are damaged after a storm, is that on you or your insurance?
If you think about it, some of the nastiest weather effects that our DC Metro region is likely to get from hurricanes are similar to severe thunderstorms, and our solar panels do fine in those scenarios generally.
Even if a strong storm is hitting closer to your location than hurricanes usually do in our part of the Mid-Atlantic, you should have peace of mind knowing that solar panels are rigorously tested for high winds and impacts from hail and debris. For example, here’s a detailed report on the ability of QCELLS solar modules, the brand of solar panels we most commonly use, to withstand a cyclone.
Concerned about high winds coming your way? Refresh yourself on what your homeowners' insurance policy says about an "act of god" and claims on systems that are incorporated into your home. Solar panels on your roof will typically fall into this category, as would solar panels destroyed or rendered inoperable due to the impact of a fallen tree striking the system (although, because your solar system consultation process would have considered shading and exposure, there probably isn't a tree that close to your solar installation.)
Comparing your resilience with solar+storage to a gas generator
For Powerwall, we work with electricians to set up your critical loads ahead of time, so that in an outage you’re automatically switching to a configuration where only the bare essentials get juice. With either a generator or battery, you’d need to cut power to non-essential circuits in your home that you don’t really care about to stretch how long your energy (or fuel) would last.
For Powerwall, we work with electricians to set up your critical loads ahead of time, so that in an outage you’re automatically switching to a configuration where only the bare essentials get juice. Your energy storage system will be devised and sized with your backup power needs in mind, after a comprehensive survey of your goals for using electricity in an outage, ranging from work (keeping computer servers up) to health needs (perishable medications or medical appliances that require power) to security and safety for your family.
By using solar panels to power those circuits and charge Powerwall for when night comes, you can keep phones charged, brew coffee, keep your refrigerator cold and have power for some lights and even hot water. We've been installing Powerwall since early 2019 for customers who want to store their renewable solar energy to use when they need it. With a generator, unforeseen factors can get in the way of having convenient perpetual power - a run on fuel causing low supplies or long lines where you buy new tanks, interruptions in piped gas supply, and the unpleasant smell and noise of running the generator for longer periods including at night.
None of these are an issue with your self-contained solar electric system, which can come on automatically in a fraction of a second and operate indefinitely with free fuel and no exhaust or engine sound.
Rest assured, you’re prepared for a bad storm with solar and storage.
For solar and storage for your home to make it through the next hurricane, thunderstorm, or snow storm with ease, reach out to us today!