Solar systems during a storm: What you need to know

by May 17, 2021Repairs, Safey, Solar

Solar Panels in a Storm
  • What’s normal: If there is a blackout, it’s completely normal for your solar power system to shut down. It should turn itself back on once the power is back on. It’s also normal for your system to be producing significantly less than usual when it’s very overcast in the lead up to the storm. 
  • What’s NOT normal: Error lights on the inverter after a storm OR the inverter not turning itself back on after the power is back on. 
  • When you should get your system inspected by a professional: If you have been through a nasty storm with large hail, it is best to get your system inspected, even if it is still producing power. There is a chance that there has been physical damage to the glass on the panels or even micro-cracks in some cases. 
  • “How do I prepare my solar system for a storm?” Solar panels are built and installed to withstand extreme weather. There isn’t really anything you can do to prepare your panels for a storm, other than turning the system completely off. 

Power outage (blackout)

In a blackout, your system will turn itself off and it won’t be producing at all. This is completely normal and is nothing to worry about. When the storm passes, power comes back on and the sun comes out again, the inverter should turn itself back on. 
Depending on the brand of the inverter, you may also receive an email from the manufacturer saying something along the lines ofone or more line conductors and/or the neutral conductor had not been connected…. recommend checking the grid connection by an electrically qualified person.’  Again, this is normal and is nothing to panic about if there has been a blackout or the electricity has been turned off. You typically don’t need to get an electrician out unless there are other issues such as error lights on the inverter. 

Error lights on the inverter after a storm

If there are error lights on your inverter after a storm, this is a clear sign that something isn’t right. It could be something really simple that can be fixed over the phone, or it may require a professional to inspect the system and repair any damages. 

What we would recommend our customers do:

  • Step 1 –  Wait until the next day. Very often, the system will sort itself out without any intervention needed. If the error lights are still on after 24 hours, proceed to Step 2. 
  • Step 2 – Turn the system off, wait 15-30 mins and then turn the system back on. Instructions on how to perform a system shut down are usually on the front of the inverter. If the error lights come back on, proceed to Step 3. 
  • Step 3 – Contact an accredited installer and let them know what has happened. Describe what colour the light is, how long it has been on, if it is flashing or not and if you have a screen on your inverter, the error code. From there, they can get to the bottom of what’s causing the problem and work out what action needs to be taken. 

If you are able to see an error code on the inverters screen, the links below may he helpful. 

Inverter not turning back on after the storm

If there has been a blackout, it’s normal for your inverter to turn itself off. It should automatically turn itself back on once the weather has cleared up and the power is back on. However, if the inverter does not turn itself back on after a blackout, this could mean that something has been damaged during the storm. When there are no error codes or lights on the inverter, it can be difficult to determine what is causing the issue and usually requires a CEC accredited installer to go out and inspect the system. During situations like this, we always suggest waiting 24 hours before taking action, just in case the situatiuon sorts itself out, which is often the case. After that, contact an accredited installer to get to the bottom of the issue. 

If there hasn’t been a blackout, but your system has shut down during the storm, we recommend contacting a local, accredited solar installer the day after. Again, because there are no error lights or codes, it makes it harder to know exactly what’s causing the issue and a professional will likely have to inspect the system to find out what the problem is. 

Hail 

If you have been through a nasty storm with significant large hail, there could be damage to your solar panels. It can be difficult to determine whether there has been damage to your system or not. Sometimes the glass on the front of the panel appears perfectly fine, but the cells underneath have micro-cracks or the backing sheet has rips or tears etc. 

Here’s what we recommend you do if you have been through a hail storm:

CALL YOUR HOME AND CONTENTS INSURER! They will typically advise that a CEC accredited installer would need to go out and inspect the system and do up a report.  It doesn’t have to be the original installer and most insurers will let you choose who does the inspection, report and repairs. If you have the choice, we always recommend choosing a local, experienced CEC accredited installer/electrical contractor that you know is going to do the right thing by you. If you are unsure whether there has been damaged or not, still give your insurer a call and let them know what has happened. They will either send their own electricians out to do an inspection or ask you to find a local installer to do the inspection. 

Please keep in mind that if micro-cracks are ignored, they can create low output issues down the track. This is why it is important to claim soon after the hail storm, and even if the insurance disallows the claim at the time, in 12, 24 or even 48 months time, if the system has reduced output and is riddled with hotspot, the customer has a chance to refer back to the initial claim. 

How big does the hail have to be to cause damage?

Solar panels are built to withstand hail. All panels that are approved to be installed in Australia are required to pass a specific test (MQT 17) to verify that the panel is capable of withstanding the impact of hail. During the test, the panels are hit with 11 ice balls at different parts of the panels. The MINIMUM requirements of ice balls are: 25mm in diameter, 7.58g in weight and shot at 23.0m/s. To pass the test, there must be no visual defects or cracks and the power output must not be affected. The LG NeON2 panels that we mainly install are tested to withstand hailstones of 35mm at approx 100km an hour speed  – any hail stone bigger than that is able to cause micro-cracks and other damage. Even smaller than 35mm can cause damage if the wind is faster than 100km/h. 

A good rule of thumb is if you’ve had hail over 25mm, it is best to get your system checked out. Better to be safe than sorry! 

Other things you can do after a storm:
  • Check for debris on your solar panels and safely remove it. Always use proper safety harnesses and seek professional help if you have a steep or high roof.
  • Check your solar system monitoring and see whether it is producing as normal.

At Electrical Sensations, we are qualified electricians and CEC accredited solar installers. If you are concerned about your solar system after a storm, we can work with you and your insurer to find a solution. Please don’t hesitate to contact our office on (07) 4637 2744. 

Nigel Phillips
Nigel Phillips

Director/Technical Manager at Electrical Sensations

Nigel has decades of experience in domestic, commercial and industrial electrical work, as well as 13 years of experience in the Solar Industry. As a Clean Energy Council (CEC) accredited solar designer and installer for both grid and off-grid solar power and battery systems, Nigel has the knowledge and expertise to create solutions to suit every client. Nigel is also one of the 23 solar experts in CEC’s Installer Reference Group, which assist the CEC in improving and shaping the small-scale PV and battery industry. Troubleshooting and fault finding are some of Nigel’s strengths.

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