The simple answer is yes. This was a question recently raised after a severe thunderstorm swept through North-West Victoria in November 2016. Golf-ball-sized hail, 100km/h winds and heavy rain battered the communities caught in the storm’s path causing 20-30 homes to lose their roof.
The storm passed through the Mildura region where Todae Solar was putting the finishing touches on a 821kW commercial solar system for Australian Vintage, one of the largest vineyard owners and managers in Australia. The image below was taken the day after the storm and as you can see, the panels remained firmly in place and were not damaged by the cyclonic winds or the hail travelling in excess of 80km/h.
This is not the first instance where Todae Solar’s installations have endured extreme weather. In 2013, one of our clients in Northern Queensland also experienced heavy storms and hail. While they had damage on their metal roof, their system was similarly undamaged – showing the resilience of solar panels.
How Do Solar Panels Survive Hail?
Solar panels are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions, not just hail. While the silicon cells are quite fragile on their own, they are protected with laminate and 3.5mm toughened glass which shields them against strong winds and impacts from objects such as hail and tree branches. Solar panels installed at angles will also take glancing blows from hail rather than direct hits, further minimising the chances of potential damage. They are durable and it is rare that hail will cause damage to them.
The Tier 1 solar panels that Todae Solar uses are all certified according to standards set by the International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC). These standards establish specific test sequences to ensure the continued performance of photovoltaic (PV) panels after prolonged exposure to a variety of standard climate conditions.
For example, to ensure the PV panels are properly insulated and can withstand wet conditions like rain, fog, dew and melted snow, manufacturers will submerse the entire module in a water bath solution before applying a test voltage. In addition to insulation resistance tests, panels are subjected to hot-spot endurance, UV preconditioning, thermal stress, humidity and mechanical load tests.
Hail impact is tested after the panel has been subjected to all the previously mentioned conditions. Ice balls (typically ranging from 25mm in diameter to golf-ball sized 45mm diameter ice balls) are launched at velocities of 82.8-100.52km/h to impact 11 specified locations on the PV panel. The panels must meet performance requirements after these tests in order to be certified.
While this may sound like a lot to put a panel through, this is actually not a complete or comprehensive list of tests administered by manufacturers. Some manufacturers will also test for resistance to ammonia, salt-mist and sand corrosion. The solar panels that Todae Solar uses are tough as evident from the recent storm. With a 25 year warranty, solar panels are designed to last.