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Solar panels, rain, and flooding: are your panels made to last?

Floods and heavy rains can knock out utility poles and other electrical infrastructure, often causing power outages for long periods of time. As an expanding provider of resilient energy, it is important to understand if and how solar panels and solar energy systems hold up in floods and heavy rains.

Solar panels and flooding

Most residential and small commercial solar energy systems are rooftop installations, which is good news if you’re worried about flood damage. In the event of a flood that doesn’t reach the roof of your home, your solar energy system will continue to work as long as your home wiring systems are still intact – this includes wiring like solar inverters and your breaker box that may be at the ground level (or even in your basement). If your neighborhood loses power due to flooding damage to the local grid, you can still produce energy from your rooftop panels if you have a home battery to send electricity to and an inverter with islanding capabilities.

If your roof becomes submerged and damaged during an extreme weather event– such as a hurricane or tsunami–your solar panels will likely experience the same fate. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean your panels will be permanently damaged. Between the aluminum frame, glass casing, and vacuum-sealed back panel, many high-quality solar panels can come out of high floods without any water damage. This is not to say that your solar panel system as a whole will continue to operate normally following an extreme flood; as with any electrical wiring, your home’s panel and inverter wiring systems may be waterlogged or otherwise damaged.

If you experience any type of flooding, be sure to have your home electrical systems examined for water damage. Your solar panels will most likely be good to go following most flooding events, but if a flood damages your home wiring, your safety could be in jeopardy. Both solar electric systems and your general home wiring contain high voltages of electricity, and you should be sure to consult an electrician to make sure your home is safe following any water damage.

Flooding and ground-mounted solar systems

Ground-mounted solar arrays are a slightly different story. While the panels themselves are still waterproof, being on the ground during a flood means that solar panels may be ripped from their racking or the ground. If you want to install a solar energy system in a flood-prone area, you may want to alleviate potential flood risks by installing your system on a high point of your property, and working with your installer to ensure that the anchoring and racking systems for the system are as heavy-duty as necessary.

Solar installers already consider flooding damage to ground-mounted systems when developing their proposals and projects – some companies will design systems with stormwater runoff plans or retention ponds, with sensitive components like inverters or data collection devices mounted with high ground clearance.

Solar panels and heavy rain

Solar panels are designed to sit outside in the elements for more than 25 years, and heavy rains are no match for both rooftop and ground-mounted solar panels. Solar panels are waterproof and can withstand heavy amounts of water due to their careful construction. Solar panel racking systems and the panels themselves are more than durable enough to withstand even the heaviest of rainstorms without experiencing damage.

In addition to being physically waterproof and rainproof, your solar panels can still produce power in overcast or rainy conditions. Sunny conditions are optimal for solar panel efficiency, but energy production does not stop in the rain. Infrared, ultraviolet and visible light waves still make their way through clouds, meaning your panels won’t stop producing electricity totally even when it’s cloudy out.

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