This time of year, as the weather turns into a lion, many PV owners worry about their systems holding up to hail, wind, and other angry sky elements that plague our Spring weather. Will your solar power system hold up?
Today’s modules have come a long way from their inception. As solar expands globally and finds its way into our streets and building materials, so does the need for testing them in the extreme conditions they might be exposed to.
When you imagine where you would put solar panels in the world, your mind travels to places of high solar exposure like deserts. This also implies high heat, dust/sand exposure, and even high winds. The testing for these environments is the baseline for testing these days. Modern labs go well beyond these simplistic models.
There are tests for variables that you might not think about, like ammonia exposure in farm fields or snow load and hail impact testing in polar climates. High humidity, freeze/thaw cycles, salt spray, and wind load tests are now standards in the industry.
Another problem to consider is that many modules have production warranties of 25 years. These new panels’ durability can be qualified by looking at their existing 25-year-old counterparts in the field. But as materials and assemblies change, how does a manufacturer predict the lifetime of the new product?
The testing labs can run many cycles of a test to extrapolate through time, but this has obvious limitations. Some innovative approaches are being implemented. For example, testing companies have partnered with the auto industry to share material degradation data.
Think about how many types of plastic, metal, glass, etc. go into a car. The auto industry has a long history of data studying how these materials wear out. The solar industry is relatively young by comparison and as solar panels are installed in more extreme environments their material demands need to keep pace.
To circumvent the physical/time constraints needed to test for these variables, the solar panel companies are now employing computer models to understand how their modules will perform beyond even the current testing machinery’s potential. Computer models are used successfully in many critical industries and offer a special insight into the solar modules’ lifetime.
Bottom Line: Today’s modules are made to handle MORE than most of the elements that we experience throughout the U.S. Have confidence that your solar panel system will keep on keeping on.