For all of you who’ve spent time in the last few weeks digging out driveways and walking through winter wonderlands, you probably have a newfound respect for the power of Mother Nature. At SunPower, we have the same respect, as we design and test our panels to maintain their high-efficiency production during the most extreme weather. In fact, a recent hailstorm at a customer installation in Phoenix, AZ demonstrated the importance of all-weather solar panel durability.
Back in October 2010, an afternoon hailstorm struck the Cowley Industrial Complex on the south side of Phoenix. The golf ball-sized hail was so large and ferocious that after the storm our local dealer, Don Herman of Empire Power Systems, said "It looked like someone had machine-gunned the complex with large bullets." However, the building’s southern end, which houses a 6.5 acre panel SunPower solar installation, was virtually spotless. More importantly, the solar panel’s continued to run at capacity producing 2.5 MW of electricity (enough to power 340 homes). In fact, out of the 8,000 panels that made up the installation, only three panels were damaged.
The tiles used in the Cowley installations were SunPower T5 tiles. Since the T5 panel is a non-penetrating model, it doesn’t require drilling holes in a building’s roof to hold the installation in place. This saved Cowley from melt water leaking through the ceiling of its distribution center and slowing operations. Facing the most extreme weather conditions, Cowley was able to maintain business as usual (and keep generating solar power)!
Next time you have to head out the door with shovel in hand, remember that your reliable SunPower panels should be in perfect operating condition. You’ll likely only need to brush the snow off of them to provide clear access to sunlight. Are your panels steadily pumping out power while surrounded by snow? If so, we’d love to see pictures of your installation braving the winter elements on our SunPower Facebook Wall.