Home Tech Extreme hail storms wreak havoc on solar farms, but protecting them may be easier than you think

Extreme hail storms wreak havoc on solar farms, but protecting them may be easier than you think

by Editorial Staff
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This story is unique appeared on Inside Local weather Information and is a part of the Local weather Desk collaboration.

When baseball-sized hail hits a photo voltaic panel at over 90 miles per hour, the consequence is just not fairly.

We noticed this in March when hail destroyed elements of the 350 MW Combating Jays photo voltaic challenge in southeast Texas. Photographs of 1000’s of panels suffering from white circles of damaged glass circulated on social media and within the information. The correct-wing media sought to amplify what they noticed as proof that solar energy was unreliable.

The fact with hail and photo voltaic panels is extra complicated and fewer grim.

Photo voltaic panel designers and producers have taken steps to scale back the chance of hail, which entails a mixture of subtle climate forecasting and panels that may rotate to keep away from direct impacts. I not too long ago spoke with among the individuals who do that work.

First, let’s outline the issue: local weather change contributes to a rise within the power of storms, together with hail.

In the meantime, based on the Worldwide Power Company, solar energy is the fastest-growing supply of electrical energy on the planet and a part of the renewables that may produce a lot of the world’s electrical energy by mid-century.

At the moment, examples of hail destroying photo voltaic farms are uncommon sufficient that they’re nonetheless notable, akin to this yr in southeast Texas and one final yr in western Nebraska. However what about 20 years from now, when hailstorms are more likely to be extra extreme and the solar will cowl far more land?

There isn’t a excellent technique to guard photo voltaic panels from hail, however there are methods to scale back the chance.

“There’s actual mitigation,” mentioned Rennie Vandeweghe, vp of climate at DTN, a Minnesota-based firm whose subscription-based merchandise embrace climate forecasting to be used by power corporations.

“We now have patented the power to measure the frequency of hail utilizing radar expertise,” he mentioned. “Once you’re watching storms, you get suggestions that claims the storm is producing two-inch hail or another state of affairs.”

This knowledge is most helpful if the photo voltaic array has {hardware} that may react to an approaching storm by adjusting the angle of the panel to scale back injury.

Nearly all utility initiatives being constructed at this time use trackers, that are methods that rotate panels all through the day to comply with the solar. A few of these trackers have the power to enter “conceal” mode, which implies they flip rapidly to keep away from direct hits.

For instance, Nextracker, a California-based producer of photo voltaic monitoring methods, sells a hail mitigation product that mixes climate forecasts from DTN and others and makes use of the information to regulate panel angles forward of hail. The methods are managed by software program that can be utilized on-site or remotely, and have battery backups for operation throughout energy outages.

“Will the event and building of photo voltaic power proceed in areas with hail? The reply is sure,” mentioned Greg Birdsworth, Nextracker’s senior director of product advertising. “The way in which that is going to occur is thru a mixture of understanding the magnitude of danger based mostly on location, selecting the suitable mixture of module expertise and tracker storage functionality.”

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