Hail, high wind, searing heat and extreme winter conditions are all familiar to our region. So how tough are solar panels, and will they endure decades of weathering? Here's a look into how and why our installations are designed to last under extreme conditions.
Most solar panel manufacturers offer a minimum of a 10-year warranty on workmanship and a 25-year warranty on performance. But like most warranties, damage due to natural weather events are rarely eligible for warranty coverage. Should damage occur to solar panels it is most likely damage to the property overall, which may be covered by homeowner's insurance.
The Black Hills can endure more than forty thunderstorms every year, including hailstorms, with sometimes massive hailstones exceeding 4-inches in diameter.
The largest hailstones in Rapid City are usually around 1.50" to 1.75" in diameter, but in nearby Vivian a world record 8-inch diameter hailstone was recorded.
Thankfully, high quality solar panels are designed with tempered glass and are tested and certified specifically for resistance to hail. In fact, solar panels are considerably more durable than asphalt shingles and even tile.
It is not impossible for massive hailstones to damage solar panels, but it is as rare as the event itself.
Our region also experiences 60 to 80 mph winds with 100 mph gusts. A properly engineered solar structure or roof attachment is designed to withstand the worst-case scenario. On roof mounts this includes a set back from the roof eave and ridge. Roof attachments are made with lag screws driven deep into the rafter or by attachments to metal standing seams.
Ground snow load can reach up to 50 pounds per square foot in our region. Snow load is a significant design factor, influenced by the specific location, the roof construction and roof pitch. High quality solar panels are certified to minimum 50 lbs/ft2 and are tested to over 100 lbs/ft2.