The chance of a homeowner’s property getting struck by lightning is unaffected by the installation of solar panels. Your solar panels will be safer from lightning with the proper protection systems, which could cause injury or damage.
Neither solar panels nor their metal racks are lightning magnets. Despite this, many individuals feel that placing electrical equipment on their rooftops makes their homes prime targets for lightning strikes. However, no evidence supports this assumption.
Here are some critical points to take away from this article:
- Solar panels likely hood of lightning strikes
- Protect your solar system
- Grounding cables
- Lightning rods
- Lightning arrestors
- Protect your solar system
Continue reading to find out what you need to know about protecting your solar panels from lightning damage and reducing the likelihood of lightning striking your solar panels.
Will My Solar Panels Attract Lightning?
No, because the electricity generated by solar panels does not attract lightning. Lightning occurs when turbulence in the atmosphere builds up a static electrical charge. Lightning can hit any spot on earth, a building, or an electrically charged object.
Electric fields, air currents, and thunderclouds play a role in the lightning process. The lightning will strike whenever and wherever it pleases, and the strike could occur.
However, neither your property nor your solar panels are safe from the threat of lightning strikes. If the conditions are right for it, the energy of a strike has the potential to disrupt or even destroy your solar installation.
You’ve done all you can to avoid lightning strikes if your solar system is built appropriately on mounts intended to resist high winds and has the required lightning protection.
What Attracts Lightning
The significant characteristics regulating where a lightning bolt will strike are height, pointed shape, and isolation. The presence of metal does not influence the location of lightning strikes. For example, mountains are mostly stone, but they are struck by lightning frequently throughout the year.
High Points Attract Lightning
Lightning tries to find the shortest path between the cloud base and the ground to complete the circuit, which means a hilltop or grove of trees is more likely to be struck than a low spot or creek bed. Because of this, mountaintops get frequently struck by lightning.
Lightning Gets Drawn To Points
Consider two identical homes, one with a flat roof and a sharply pitched roof. The steeper roof will likely be struck by lightning because the points allow electrical charges to concentrate, providing a weak spot for lightning to target.
Lightning Enters Your Home Via Conductors
Lightning can enter a house through metal pipes and wires, causing significant damage and danger. Chimneys are also a prime lightning attractor since that is the highest point on a home, and many satellite dishes or aerials get fastened to them. The lightning then travels through the cabling or pipes. Indoor lightning deaths are uncommon, but 32 percent of all lightning injuries occur indoors.
What Happens If Lightning Strikes Your Solar Panel?
If lightning strikes your solar panels, you may not immediately notice any damage. Close inspection, however, may reveal that some photovoltaic cells have become damaged and are no longer producing electricity as efficiently as they should.
Because lightning damage can render solar panels unsafe, you should inspect your solar panels immediately following a lightning storm. If you discover damage, you must repair or replace any solar panels that have been struck by lightning as soon as possible.
If lightning strikes your system, contact your installer immediately for help filing an insurance claim and instructions on how to proceed with repairing any damaged equipment. A solar power system has many components, and lightning can damage each in different ways.
Protecting Your Solar Panels From Lightning
Some companies sell lightning protection systems designed explicitly with photovoltaic solar panels. These lightning protection devices shield your solar system from lightning damage by directing lightning currents around your solar panels.
Grounding Solar Panel Cables
Grounding is the most basic method of protecting against lightning damage. Of course, you can’t stop a lightning strike, but you can redirect it and give it a direct path to the ground that avoids your expensive equipment and safely discharges the strike into the earth.
An underground electrical route constantly discharges static energy collected in an aboveground structure. Because of this, lightning attraction is frequently prevented.
Surge protectors and lightning arrestors protect electronic equipment by absorbing electrical surges. These devices, however, are not a replacement for proper grounding. Instead, they are only effective when combined with appropriate grounding.
The grounding system is a critical component of your wiring infrastructure. Install it before or during the installation of the power wiring. Otherwise, it may never get checked off the “to-do” list once the system runs.
Lightning Rod Method
“Lightning rods” are static discharge devices connected to the ground and placed above buildings and solar-electric arrays. They get designed to prevent static charge buildup and eventual ionization of the surrounding atmosphere.
They can help prevent a strike and provide a path for extremely high currents to ground if one occurs. Modern devices are spike-shaped and frequently have multiple points.
Lighting rods are typically only used in areas prone to severe electrical storms. If you believe your site falls into this category, hire a contractor with lightning protection experience. If your system installer is not qualified, consult a lightning protection specialist before installing the system.
Choose a North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certified PV installer if possible. Although this certification is not specific to lightning protection, it gets used to assess an installer’s overall level of competence.
Lightning Arrestors Method
Lightning (surge) arrestors absorb voltage spikes caused by electrical storms (or out-of-spec utility power), effectively bypassing power wiring and your equipment.
Surge protectors should get installed at both ends of any long wire run connected to any component of your system, including AC lines from an inverter.
Make sure you use the correct arrestors for your application. Many system installers routinely use Delta surge arrestors, which are inexpensive and provide protection where lightning is a moderate threat, but these units are no longer UL listed.
PolyPhaser and Transtector arrestors are high-quality products for lightning-prone areas and larger installations. These long-lasting units provide reliable protection and are compatible with a wide range of system voltages. In addition, some devices have indicators that show the various failure modes.
Solar Panels In Strong Winds
Solar power arrays get frequently exposed to the planet’s worst weather, including hurricane-force winds gusting up to 200 miles per hour on the United States’ Eastern seaboard and islands such as Hawaii and Guam.
Calculating wind load is essential in system design, whether the solar panels get mounted on the roof, in a stationary ground array, or moving trackers.
The weakest link in a solar panel system’s wind resistance is rarely the panels themselves – in most cases where wind causes damage to a solar array, failures occur due to flaws in the racking system or the roof.