To say the weather in Colorado is sporadic would be an understatement. While The Centennial State boasts 300 days of sunshine per year, the other 60 can feel like the world is coming to an end. Every year, the Front Range is sieged by booming thunderstorms and torrential downpours. And hail. Especially hail.
The single most common inquiry home owners have when thinking about adding a solar PV array to their home is about hail.
Solar contractors receive questions like “Can hail damage the panels?” or “Does my insurance cover hail damage?” On a daily basis.
In short, yes hail can damage solar panels, and most home insurance policies cover that damage. However, the chances of hail actually damaging panels is slim to none.
In May of 2017, a particularly intense hail storm tore through the Front Range. It was so destructive that it knocked the Colorado Mills Mall out of commission for nearly an entire year.
The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) is located just about 2 miles away from the Colorado Mills Mall. Of the 3,168 solar panels at the lab, only 1 (one!!) was damaged by the same storm. Additionally, while the production dropped during the storm, once it passed, the panels began to perform like nothing happened. This is a great testament to the durability of the modern day solar panel.
It took nearly a decade before ARE Solar has had to replace a panel due to hail damage. The June 2018 storm that dropped tennis ball sized hail across the Northern Front Range finally cracked select West facing panels. Mother nature will always find a way to cause trouble, however the most noteworthy panel replacement ARE has had to take care of was due to people, not the weather.
“It was a .357, if I am not mistaken,” says Andy Pendl, VP and partner of ARE Solar, about the bullet he pulled out of a panel at the Greenbox Self Storage in LoDo. After receiving a notification that a panel was not producing, Andy went out to investigate the problem, only to find that a stray bullet found its way into a panel.
So, while solar panels may not be bullet proof, they can, more often than not, withstand even the harshest of hail storms. This durability is an important trait for solar photovoltaic systems, especially in a state like Colorado where the weather can be unforgiving.