The solar industry faces a yearly $2.5 billion loss due to equipment underperformance linked to malfunctions and weather, per kWh Analytics’ 2023 Solar Risk Assessment.
With the global solar market set to hit $300 billion by 2032 and solar’s share in US electricity expected to grow from 3% to 40% by 2035, addressing these issues is vital. While solar has focused on cheap electricity, a new era of resilient asset-building is dawning.
This is partly driven by insurers offering benefits for robust operations, countering rising costs from major natural damage.
Go for Materials that Can Withstand the Weather
Due to the increase in solar module size, manufacturers are transitioning from 3.2mm heat-tempered glass to 2mm heat-strengthened glass to manage weight and costs. This change is especially popular for projects seeking cost reduction.
RETC’s Hail Durability Test exposes PV modules to higher kinetic energy levels than standard safety tests, assessing impact resistance at damage thresholds. The findings indicate that 3.2mm heat-tempered glass modules are twice as durable against impacts at a 50% breakage probability.
Consequently, solar projects in hail-prone regions should consider using hail-resistant PV modules to lessen weather-related losses, decrease module downtime, and minimize financial risk for stakeholders.
Stow Solar Panels when Bad Weather is Imminent
Hail is a growing concern for the PV industry, especially in hail-prone regions like the central U.S. As solar modules get larger with thinner glass, moving them into hail stow, though effective, raises worries about revenue loss due to shifts from optimal angles.
To evaluate this, kWh Analytics simulated a 200 MW tracker site in Texas, comparing no hail stow to a 60-degree stow during National Weather Service severe weather alerts. Choosing the latter led to just a 0.1% production loss annually.
Conversely, delaying stowing could mean high costs to fix or replace hail-damaged modules or components, running into thousands or millions of dollars.
So, the smart move is clear: opt for early and frequent hail stow when severe weather threatens solar projects.
The Resilience of Electrical Performance
Beyond physical risks, the resilience of electrical performance is also influenced by location.
When choosing a site for a PV project, solar energy potential isn’t the sole consideration. Weather’s effect on specific project aspects, especially inverters, must also be factored in. Inverters are crucial as they convert solar panel current into grid-usable current. Inefficient inverters lead to wasted absorbed energy.
Inverter choice is influenced by factors like efficiency and expected climate. Envision Digital’s research reveals that inverter efficiency loss varies across climates, being higher in hotter and harsher conditions.
To optimize PV plant design, developers must grasp these climate-based impacts to achieve maximum performance and ROI.
Constructing successful solar projects presents an opportunity for collaborative efforts and the exchange of effective methods. Given that insurance operates globally, substantial losses within the industry impact the entire ecosystem.
As developers and operators implement resilience measures, it becomes vital to communicate these improvements to stakeholders, particularly brokers and insurers. This communication can leverage the cost-saving initiatives emerging in certain insurance markets.