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As solar energy becomes more popular, hail storms are becoming a more significant cause of concern. If hailstorms have damaged your solar panels, you may be wondering if they will still produce electricity. The good news is that most rooftop-mounted panels can withstand even the worst of hailstorms with minimal damage to their electrical connections and circuitry inside them. For those who are unsure about the status of their solar panel system after a storm, getting it inspected as soon as possible is recommended. 

Solar Panels in the Dusk of Evening

What is hail damage to solar panels?

Hail damage to solar panels is caused by ice balls that form when raindrops are blown through cold air or freezing water. The force of the hail hitting your roof is enough to break most materials, but many people fail to realize that solar panels are designed to withstand impact.

When properly installed on a stable system, they will typically suffer only superficial damage following a storm. Hailstones can be as small as a pea or as large as a grapefruit, and there have been instances of hailstones reaching the size of orange depending on weather conditions.

They melt rapidly once they hit something solid, meaning that hailstorms capable of causing extensive physical damage usually do not last long enough for much hail accumulation. While clouds moving at high speeds and hailstones travelling at extreme speeds can cause damage, the average speed of hail is often not as great as typically perceived.

 Why are solar panels prone to hail damage?

Solar panels are prone to hail damage because they are made of glass, which is not hail-proof due to its brittle nature. Glass absorbs both kinetic and thermal energy, breaking with the force of the hailstones rather than shattering like traditional window panes.

The conductors in solar panels can also be fused by strong currents flowing through them as a result of the increased resistance caused by hail damage. A hail storm can be very damaging to solar panels installations, especially in terms of electrical damage.

Power outages resulting from a hail storm can be very costly to commercial solar panel owners due to lost revenue caused by downtime. In some cases where the panels are shaded or not facing south, renters might even try and sue for losses.

How does hail affect the environment, and why should we care

Hail can have a negative effect on the environment, and we must care about this. Hail is formed when strong rising air currents called updrafts are met by falling ice and water particles. These collisions cause the larger, heavier pieces to fall while the smaller, lighter particles are carried within the cloud.

This is why you’ll see fewer hailstones at higher levels in a hail storm cloud than at lower levels. Hailstones can be up to 5cm wide! When ice collapses due to changes in pressure or temperature, it releases latent heat energy, which melts some of the hailstone’s surface, causing it to glide across the sky rather than drop straight down.

However, a large part of a hailstone’s journey is spent sinking through extremely cold regions before it reaches warmer altitudes, where it starts melting again. Any remaining small pieces will continue sinking until they reach a level where they evaporate. Comparatively, smaller hailstones have a faster sinking rate than more giant hailstones, so you’ll see smaller ice pellets at ground level after a hailstorm due to their quicker descent through colder air.

If you want information about How Well Does Solar Work Through Winter? check our previous post.

How do you know if hailstorms or high winds have damaged your solar panels?

You should regularly inspect your solar panels to check if they are clean and free of debris. Clean your solar panels whenever necessary; the best time for this is usually after a hailstorm, but you can also do it daily (if there’s no rain) or weekly (in rainy conditions). If you find hail or wind damage on your solar panels, contact a professional to repair them.

View of a Shattered solar panel after hail

Some common signs of hail or wind damage include:

  • Missing granules – (solar cells and modules may be fine)
  • Unusual discolouration – (White spots indicate an area where the surface coating has been leached due to temperature stress. Damage is typically confined to the perimeter of the cell where temperature gradients are highest.)
  •  Missing glass – (Hail can leave just a metal frame. Each piece of broken glass will reduce power output by approximately 2%.)
  • Cracks in front side glass – (The most common type of damage found on PV systems is cracking on the front sheet.) -Cr in backside tempered glass (Cracks on backside glass are typically more dangerous than front sheet cracking because the panel is not able to shed heat as quickly. Thermal stress can cause increased resistance at damaged areas, which will cause further damage and degradation. Cracks on the backside of modules may be more extended than on the front side before being noticed.)
  • Flexible busbar – damage on the front of solar panels (Damage on the busbar can be seen as dark or shiny.)

 What can I do if a storm has damaged my solar panel? 

If a storm has damaged your solar panel, you may be able to claim compensation. The faulty installation must have been installed by a qualified solar installer, ensuring that the system was correctly fitted and working efficiently.

Previously, there has been no clear legislation on the matter. Still, recently, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of homeowners who could successfully make claims against their solar panel supplier for faulty installations.