How do Solar Panels Get Damaged – & Ways to Protect Them?

How do Solar Panels Get Damaged

Solar panels are widely used to convert sunlight into electricity. However, like any other electronic device, PV panels are not perfect.

They do also get affected by various external conditions. In this post, I am here to answer a common question, i.e. how solar panels get damaged & the ways by which you can protect them.

After reading this post, you will get to know:

  • 7 major factors that might cause solar panels to damage.
  • Ways to protect them, 
  • What can you do if your solar panel gets damaged & 
  • Some FAQs at the end.

Let’s dive right in.

How do Solar Panels Get Damaged?

External conditions like bad weather, storms, extreme heat, etc. cause a lack of efficiency & damage to PV panels.

The damage can either be physical or may be seen in the energy output. Here is the list of 7 major factors that can cause PV panels to damage.

1. Throwing Hard Objects on the Surface of PV

One of the main reasons behind the damage caused to solar panels is throwing/falling hard objects like a stone on their surface.

Not only this but, if a tree or its branches falls on panels, it will also cause huge damage to them.

Solar Panels damaged by Hails
Image Source: JoNova

To understand this damage properly let me recall the structure of solar panels.

The structure of photovoltaics is composed of several layers as shown in the below image.

Structure of Solar Panels

Small solar cells are held together with the help of metal strips & both sides of the solar array are encapsulated by Ethylene-vinyl acetate.

This layer of the encapsulant is further backed by a glass sheet. The glass sheet provides proper insulation to charge flowing through metal strips.

If a heavy object (like branches of a tree) falls on the surface of solar panels, it will cause the glass sheet to damage.

And, this damage will result in leakage of charge throughout the surface of photovoltaics. As a result, you might face a reduction in overall output.

In some extreme cases, if the metal strips are damaged, it may also cause the ignition to panels.

How can you protect your panels from throwing/falling on hard objects?

First of all, make sure to install your panels away from large trees. Doing so can not only make your panels safe but also prevent shade that may cause low efficiency.

Further, you can make sure that they are placed so that it is hard for someone to throw stones or any other object over their surface. 

As per your convenience, you can also use a CCTV camera to keep an eye on them, even if you are not at your home.

2. Hail Storms

If you are living in locations where hail storms are frequent then it might be a serious problem for you.

Hails damage solar panels in the same way as a stone thrown over them. Heavy hail storms can break the glass sheet & cause leakage of charge.

This is also a type of physical damage in which either the voltage gets reduced or the panels catch fire.

Here’s how you can protect your panels from hail storms?

Almost all solar panels are so made that they can withstand moderate to severe hail storms. However, in some cases, it is also seen that they can even break their surface.

To protect your panels from heavy hail storms, it is advised that you should stay up-to-date regarding the latest weather updates.

Also, you can add a thin layer of polymers like methacrylate over their surface. 

3. Excessive Heat

It is a common misconception that excessive heat can help solar panels generate more electricity. However, it is completely false.

Extreme heat can even reduce the efficiency of the PV panels up to 30%. Not only this but if you are living in regions where the temperature is too high, then chances are that your panels can degrade even faster.

Thus the probability of physical damage by overheating is quite less but it can reduce overall output to a great extent.

How can you protect your Solar Panels from Overheating?

If you are living in hot regions then, instead of using polycrystalline, use monocrystalline panels.

It is so because monocrystalline panels are more efficient in warm weather in comparison to polycrystalline.

Additionally, you can install ventilation systems like fans near your solar panels.

4. Lightning Strike

According to National Geographic, lightning is an electrical discharge caused by imbalances between the clouds & the ground, or within clouds itself.

When a lightning strike takes place, you may see sudden surges in electric voltage. These sudden spikes are very dangerous for electrical equipment attached to PV panels.

What you can do to combat lightning strikes on PV panels?

One of the best ways to combat voltage surges during lightning strikes is to use a lightning protection system or a voltage regulator.

You can also make sure that you have created proper earthing while installing the PV panels.

5. Damage Caused by Animals

Animals like monkeys & rodents harm solar panels by chewing their wires & cause other similar damage.

This may result in a huge loss of money as well as solar power

Monkeys damaging Solar Panels
Image Source: The American Energy News

Here are some best ways by which you can stop monkeys from damaging your panels.

  1. You can use Monkey’s repellent devices. These devices produce ultra-high-frequency sounds that irritate them & make them go away.
  2. Another way is to use fencing around your wires, connectors & other sensitive parts of solar panels.

6. Leaves, Branches & Dust

Leaves, small branches & dust when stuck in the surface of PV panels can cause scratches & marks on their surface.

It not only damages the solar panels physically but also in terms of output. Dirt extracted over their surface can resist sunlight & reduce the efficiency of photovoltaics.

What you can do?

Make sure to clean your panels periodically. You can even wash them, but make sure to do it only in the morning or evening. 

Cleaning your panels with water in the middle of the day can cause them more damage as they get overheated during this time.

7. Over-Time Degradation

Last but not the least, solar panels can also degrade over time due to thermal cycling, moisture, or humidity.

Thermal cycling is referred to as frequent changes in temperature during a day.

Well, you don’t have to worry much about it as most of the PV panels are so designed that they can sustain for at least 20 to 25 years.

How can you prevent Over-time Degradation?

Solar panels generally last over 20 to 25 years. However, with proper maintenance & periodic cleaning, you may increase their life-span.

What can you do If your Solar Panels get Damaged?

If your solar panels get damaged due to any reason, then the first thing that you have to do is to contact your solar provider or a local electrician.

If the glass sheet of PV panels gets broken, then you should stay away from it as charge leakage may cause the fire to the system. 

Also, make sure not to place any explosive material near the systems. Overall, contacting your solar provider is best as they better know the problem.

P.S. You can also apply for insurance claims if you have one. 

FAQs

What happens when solar panels break?

When a heavy or sharp object like stone or hail falls on the surface of solar panels, the top-most layer (i.e. glass sheet) gets broken down. It may lead to leakage of charge & thus reduced output.

What are the main reasons behind solar panel damage?

Some main reasons include overheating, hailstorms & if someone throws a hard object on their surface. Falling of heavy objects like branches of trees can also cause damage to solar panels.

How do you repair a damaged solar panel?

If the glass sheet gets broken then you can repair it by adding a new one but it is always best to contact your solar provider before making any decision.

How much do solar panels degrade every year?

Every year you can expect a reduction in efficiency by around 0.5% to 1%.

How long do Solar panels last?

The lifespan of solar panels depends on various factors like maintenance, manufacturer & weather conditions. On overage solar panels last 25 to 30 years & even more in some cases.

Final Words

In this post, I have shared a complete guide on why solar panels get damaged & how you can protect them. 

Additionally, I have also discussed what you can do if your solar panel is already damaged.

I hope you have found this post helpful. You can share your views with us in the comment section.

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Harish Joshi

Harish is an environment enthusiast & a passionate blogger from Uttarakhand, India. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Computer Applications from G.B. Pant. University of Agriculture & Technology, Pantnagar. Along with Solar Funda, he also manages Fullonstudy (an educational blog for college students).

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