Solar panels are designed to withstand inclement weather events, including wind, rain, hail, and long-term exposure to the sun. Each project is engineered specifically for its site by professional engineers who provide stamped drawings for the system racking installation, including pier embedment depths, dampener locations, and module attachment requirements.
Registered professional engineers are responsible for confirming that the project is designed to comply with the National Building Code. This code sets the design wind speed (specifically for hurricane zones) and sets the minimum wind speed for which the racking system and panel connection must be designed. The engineer also confirms that the project meets electric codes and standards UL 3703, UL 2703, and IEC 62817.
In addition, the engineers’ evaluation incorporates consideration of numerous site-specific factors, including both local expected wind speeds and potential extreme wind speeds. Once the project is built, weather stations at multiple locations across the project site will signal the tracking system to move to certain “stow positions” if the wind speeds increase to the higher limits of the design. These systems are designed to protect themselves in high-wind conditions.
Civil and geotechnical engineers also evaluate site-specific soil conditions to determine the proper sizing of the support piers—for example, whether pier coatings are needed for alkaline soils and how deep support piers must be driven. The physical investigation techniques used to assess geotechnical conditions include soil borings and push-pull tests to determine soil friction.
These evaluations ensure that projects are designed and built to be safe on their specific sites. If an unanticipated extreme weather event does take place and the solar system is damaged, or if system components cause damage to someone else’s property, the project or its insurance policy would cover the cost of repairs and/or removal of damaged equipment.