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Solar power and hail damage

At the time of writing solar photo-voltaic power was being installed at an enormous and increasing rate around the world, and particularly in my country, Australia.

Solar panels can be damaged by large hail stones and research is indicating that hail storms with hail stones greater than 50 mm in diameter are becoming more frequent, due to climate change, see below.

Any hail storm that will damage solar panels will also damage tiled roofs and motor vehicles and could injure people and animals. As mentioned below, two months before the storm that is the main subject of this page another killed 400 kangaroos and 150 goats elsewhere in NSW.

If exceptionally large hail stones are going to become more common they will have implications far beyond solar panels.

This page was written 2018/12/28 – ©
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com (David K. Clarke)
 
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Destructive hail a sign of things to come

Samuel Childs wrote a piece for The Conversation on 2018/09/20 titled "Destructive 2018 hail season a sign of things to come".

Data published on Mr Childs' article showed that hail storms in which there were exceptionally large hail stones were becoming more frequent. The records indicated that both hail stones greater than 50mm and greater than 75mm were becoming more common. Climate science indicated that this was to be expected with climate change and the consequential increasing prevalence of violent storms.

In Australia

On 2018/10/16 the ABC reported that a "Hail storm kills 400 kangaroos and 150 goats on properties in far-west New South Wales".

2018/12/18

Jenny Noyes reported on 2018/12/25 in the Sydney Morning Herald about the damage inflicted to "almost 3500 homes in the Sydney metropolitan area" from exceptionally damaging hail storms of 2018/12/20. Ms Moyes reported that "Statewide, the number of homes that have required repairs has exceeded 5300, and is expected to grow as calls continue to come in."

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At the time of writing it was not possible to get any information on the number of solar panels that were damaged but there was anecdotal evidence for bad damage in at least some isolated areas.

On 2019/01/07 it was reported that almost 60,000 cars had been damaged by the hail storms. Insurance claims numbered over 81,000 and were nearing a total of $675 million.



The implications for solar panels

A Web site providing information on solar power, Energy Sage, had a page titled 'Can solar panels withstand hail and survive hurricanes?' at the time of writing, 2018/12/28. It stated that "In most cases, solar panels are tested and certified to withstand hail of up to 25 mm (one inch) falling at 23 meters per second."

But as reported by Mr Childs (The Conversation, above):

"Here in Colorado, over 20 percent of severe hail reports through the beginning of September have been at least 2 inches [50mm]. Three percent have been at least 3 inches [75mm] – bigger than a standard 2.75-inch baseball. These are the highest such percentages in state history. Moreover, Colorado saw a new record, with hail greater than 3 inches in diameter reported 10 times, over seven different days."
Mr Childs' data showed that in the USA hail stones larger than 50 mm had become more common in the period from 2010 to 2017.

Climate scientists have been warning for years that the intensity of storms will increase as anthropogenic climate change progresses.

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Utility scale solar farms

Tailem Bend Solar Farm, under construction 2018/11/26
Tailem Bend solar farm
Photographed by my drone


At the time of writing (December 2018) most new utility scale solar farms were being built with single-axis Sun tracking capability. This would allow the panels to be adjusted to maximum tilt whenever a possibly destructive hail storm was expected, so minimising the likelihood of damage.

Whether the operators of the solar farms are all aware of the need for this, and whether they have put procedures in place to make sure that it happens when it is needed, is another matter.






Implications for roofing

 

Fashion

When I was young the great majority of Australian houses were roofed with galvanised corrugated iron. Later it became fashionable to use tiles, either baked clay or concrete; in that period corrugated iron was thought only good enough for sheds. In the last decade or two corrugated iron has again become the way to go for the fashion conscious, probably at least partly because it is now available in a range of colours.

Considering the recent hail damage I suspect that tiles will be even less popular in future.

In the Sydney hail storm of 2018/12/18 where solar panels were on tiled roofs the panels protected the tiles beneath. Where there were no solar panels tiles were commonly broken. I did not hear of corrugated iron roofs (which are common in Australia) being damaged.

Skylights were also damaged.

Where solar panels protected the tiles beneath there would have been less damage due to leaking roofs than in those houses with tiles and no panels.

It would be interesting to know the comparative cost of repairing the houses – roofs, panels and water damage – with and without solar panels. In late 2018 solar panels were probably comparable in cost to a similar area of roofing tiles.






Related pages

Australia's energy future

South Australia's energy future

Solar car park shade

Solar power: recent significant developments

Solar power: a historical snapshot

Climate change

Climate change, 'natural' disasters and what we should be doing






Index; on this page...

Destructive hail a sign of things to come
Implications for roofing
Related pages
Solar panel implications
Utility scale solar


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