Can wind rip solar panels off your roof?

dmeditors-blog-entry3We got walloped by a wall of wind suddenly at about 2:30 a.m. last night here in Aurora, Colo. The wind was so powerful that the entire house shuddered like crazy for about 45 minutes.

All I could think about was, ‘I hope our 26 solar panels stay secure on the roof and that the wind doesn’t rip them off, along with the metal rails they sit on and perhaps even the roof itself!’

I’ve had this feeling perhaps two other times since REC Solar installed our 5.59 kW solar system in June of 2010. Luckily, each time, the panels, rails, and roof have remained in place.

That most likely means: a) REC Solar did a good job of securing our rails and panels to the roof; b) we’re almost certainly better off that our panels are flush with the roof angle, not up on tilts.

Wind & tilt bars
There’s a bit of irony in “b” – the possibility that having our 26 panels on an angle flush with the roof, rather than on tilt bars that push the panels well above the roof pitch is, in the case of monstrous winds, an advantage.

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Our 19 degree roof pitch is clearly not an advantage in terms of snow, which can stubbornly sit on our 26-panel system for a week or more, even in very sunny conditions, before finally melting.

Given the choice of having our entire system more easily ripped off by outrageously strong winds – the wind gusted to nearly 70 mph last night – because it’s on tilt bars that allow the wind to more easily catch the panels and cast them into the air, or keeping those panels at a 19-degree angle, flush with our roof, and losing production because the snow won’t shed due to the low roof pitch, I’ll take the latter every time.

Of course, what would be better would be a hydraulic system that allowed us to easily bring our panels up and down to different angles depending on sun, snow, and wind conditions. I don’t know that there is such a system out there, and, if there is, I’m pretty certain it’s not affordable. Perhaps someday, though, we’ll see such a hydraulically adjustable system on rooftops here in the U.S., and around the world.

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