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Shining Through the Storm: Solar’s Resilience During Hurricane Season

October 5, 2023 Empower Energies

On September 28th, 2022, Hurricane Ian made landfall on the western coast of southern Florida. Within the initial landfall hours, more than 2.7 million households lost power, with some enduring service restoration delays of over a week. According to Energy News Network, Florida Power and Light (FPL) had begun to follow new guidance to bury powerlines and strengthen poles years before Ian made landfall. However, Hurricane Ian’s effects were still devastating. Over 1/3 of the customers were still without power for over 8 days due to severe damage to lines that were still above ground.

A year later, many communities are still rebuilding, and Florida’s utility companies are still considering what improvements to make to prevent power grid failures and damage in the future. With the effects of climate change slowly coming into focus, many hurricane-affected states are seeing the need for drastic improvements to their utilities.

Solar V. Hurricane Ian

When FPL saw a massive loss of energy distribution, new solar communities and solar-generated buildings saw little to no effect on energy production and availability. Babcock Ranch, a small community just north of the Fort Myers area, demonstrates Solar’s resilience to weather storms as the best example. America’s “First Solar Generated Town” didn’t lose power during the storm at all, thanks to its underground lines and nearby solar array. Its specially built landscaping funneled floodwaters away from homes. Their completely solar-generated energy network separated them from the devastated FPL.

Our team has personal experience seeing the strength of Solar power during tough hurricane seasons. Empower Energies (Empower) has developed, constructed, and maintained two sites in Southwest and Central Florida for a Fortune 500 company. These sites enabled the organization to circumvent the loss of power experienced by so many.

Can Solar Panels Survive Hurricanes?

Short answer: Yes. Solar panels are specifically designed to survive the worst of weather. We have two examples from Hurricane Ian where our own constructions were put to the test and proved the panels could survive strong winds, rain, and other elements throughout the storm.

Case Study: Fortune 500 Client | Tampa, FL | 3.2 MW Roof & Canopy

Tampa Site

In Florida we operate two sites with almost 8,690 modules each. These sites both contain rooftop installations and carport canopies.

Our client’s Tampa site has a capacity of 3.2 MW. This site spans over the rooftops of several buildings on their campus.

Damaged Solar Panel at Empower's Tampa Site

During Hurricane Ian this site experienced only slight “damage”. One module panel out of 8,690 panels flipped due to the high winds, and the system stopped producing energy. Later it was found that the panel was not originally bolted properly, and this was the cause of the fault. Luckily, the Empower Energies Asset Management team was able to swiftly identify and correct the issue and production restarted less than two days later, on September 30th.


Case Study: Fortune 500 Client | Orlando, FL | 1.6 MW Roof & Canopy

Orlando Site

Our client’s Orlando site, which has a capacity of 1.6 MW, never lost power or stopped generating energy during the hurricane. This solar campus showcases module durability, supporting solar’s resilience in hurricane-prone states.

How Durable are Solar Panels?

Solar panels are like any other product: the good ones last and the cheapest are flimsy. Solar panel distributors prioritize product quality and conduct thorough impact testing for durability.

According to Solar Reviews, companies, such as SolarWorld, have their panels undergo testing with wind, rain, flooding, and hail. An example of panel testing involves a hail test, where machines (like baseball pitching machines) propel hail at speeds of up to 260 MPH.

Florida building codes require solar companies to install hurricane-proof panels. They require roofs to pass inspection, and they ensure that crews bolt the panels to a specific racking system.

Key Takeaways

Hurricanes devastate costal states with increasingly powerful and deadly storms due to climate change. With this knowledge, it is up to lawmakers, utility companies, and large corporations to make changes to protect energy availability to those living in affected areas. Solar’s resilience in harsh weather and ability to maintain power in adversity makes it a valuable choice for areas with increasing weather risks. Corporations seeking onsite solar solutions need to trust that their renewable energy partners are doing their due diligence to procure and install equipment that will weather the environment of their site.

Empower Energies conducts detailed site studies and analysis to determine the best possible equipment for every site and supervises the installation of every panel. Empower also has a dedicated Asset Management team, who can oversee the operations and maintenance of your system to diagnose any dip in system performance and apply a swift and effective resolution. Talk to an Empower representative about your site today.