IBHS research has shown that ballasted solar panel array systems may slide or lift at wind speeds below design levels. The movement of rooftop commercial solar installations have the potential to cause roof damage and generate flying debris during wind storms, such as hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, and straight-line windstorms. When a solar panel array is first installed, a baseline inspection should be conducted and the location of key elements should be clearly identified. Be sure to discuss liability, maintenance, and repair responsibilities with your solar panel installer and insurance company.
Following a strong wind event—with wind speeds in excess of 70 mph—steps should be taken to identify and address any change or damage that may have occurred.
After installation, create a baseline of the solar panel array system and roof cover:
- Document locations of solar panel array, panels and ballast.
- Record distance between solar panel array system and other roof-mounted equipment.
- Inspect and photograph solar panel array and roof cover.
Post-Event Inspection and Repairs
After a strong wind event, inspect and address the following:
- Damage to roof cover including tears and abrasion.
- Damage to solar panel arrays including panels, connecters and ballast.
- Loose or disconnected conduit, wiring or electrical connections.
- Overly tight cables and any signs of fraying or damage to cables or conduit, which could result in an electrical short or broken connection.
- Movement of solar panel array system and components, particularly changes in proximity to other roof-mounted equipment to determine if collision has or could occur.
- Inspect the entire array for missing components which may have become dislodged and become wind borne debris.
Solar panel array systems and components can shift after a severe weather event, including systems suddenly or gradually moving toward the roof edge, as shown above.
Other components that can shift after severe weather include the electrical tray, conduit, and mounting block with roof cover sheet carrying the power line, which is shown shifted away from the solar panel array system. This may cause tightening or disconnection of the cable, which can be a fire hazard.