Preparing Your Solar Electric System for a Hurricane

Florida and coastal communities occasionally experience significant and possibly life threatening conditions during named and unnamed storms. During these times we see a significant uptick in concerns and questions regarding preparation of rooftop solar electric systems. According to the Florida Public Service Commission, there are currently there are around 16,000 customer owned solar energy systems connected to the grid in Florida. This does not include the well over 1 million solar panels installed and owned by Florida utilities.

  1. Always heed the warnings issued by your local Government regarding evacuations and preparations.
  2. Your solar electric system has been designed to weather the storm. Do not, for any reason, attempt to get on your roof to make preparations. DO NOT attempt to remove your solar electric system.
  3. Following the storm take the same extreme caution as you would with downed power lines if in the unlikely event you have damage to your solar system. In the sun, electricity may be flowing through solar panels. Again, DO NOT attempt to go on your roof to inspect or repair your solar system. Physically inspect your solar from the ground where it is safe.
  4. It is a good idea, to take photos of your solar system, just like you would your other significant investments in order to create a good inventory for your insurance company if you do experience damage. Unsure of how to create a good inventory, here is a blog post from Allstate on creating a home inventory that is helpful.
  5. Listen to your local utility company. Men and women are literally risking their lives to restore power. DO NOT operate a generator without the proper installation and ventilation. Also be wary of scammers! Under no circumstance will your utility company call you and ask you for banking information! Your utility will have information about these scams here is a good example [link].

Is There Anything I Can Do to Protect My Solar Electric System Investment

At your option, you may choose to turn off your solar system during the storm event. This precaution is similar to unplugging major appliances or computers in an attempt to protect them from voltage spikes in the event the utility, significantly, loses control of the grid or as a result of extreme local transformer damage. Remember, your utility will likely be shutting down power to protect their equipment also. Your solar

NOTE: If you choose not to turn the solar system off, it will shut down, on its own, if you do not have a battery and there is a loss of power. It will turn back on, on its own, when power is restored and the solar inverter recognizes it is safe to operate.

If you would like to shut down your solar follow these steps.

inverter-disco-1Step 1: Turn off the AC/DC Disconnect located on the Inverter

Turn OFF the DC disconnect, which is the dial on the front of the inverter. Just turn the dial clockwise until it points down, in the OFF position.

Then flip the switch or turn the other small dial OFF, which is found in the center opening, next to the LCD screen shown in the image.

The “I” symbol means that the inverter is ON.

The “O” symbol means that the inverter is OFF.

*If you have more than one inverter, you can turn them off in any order.

ac-discoStep 2: Turn off the AC Main Disconnect if you have one.

This is a simple blade style disconnect switch, simply throw the handle in the opposite direction. This disconnect switch is typically located outside directly next to your inverter.

 

Don’t see any of these things?

pv-solar-breakerAdditionally, some solar electric systems may simply have a breaker located in their main electric panel, with all of their normal breakers. The solar breaker is labeled with a red sticker. You may use this breaker to shut off your solar system. This breaker may also be located outside, near your electric meter.

Do NOT under any circumstances remove the cover of your electric panel or attempt to physically remove your solar breaker or any other electric breakers. Only a qualified contractor should handle the breakers and wiring.

Turning Your Solar System Back On

Once the storm has passed and the electric grid returns to the normal operation you can then proceed to resume operation of your electric system. Simply follow these same directions, in the reverse order, to resume generating clean solar energy. During the startup process, your solar system will take between 5-7 minutes to resume operation, assuming the grid is working properly.

If the grid is working properly, your solar system will begin operating as normal. If the power grid is on but is still operating outside of a safe voltage range, your solar system will not start up. This is by design to ensure the safety of your solar system as well as those folks and line workers who may be working on the grid to bring power back to your neighborhood. As soon as the grid is functioning properly your solar electric system will automatically reconnect to the grid and begin normal operation.

If I have a Tesla Powerwall or other Battery, will my Power Vinyasun system still operate?

Some customers have added an optional storage system to keep them powering through an outage. These systems will typically shut down for between 5 and 30 seconds before restoring power to your back up loads. Remember, when you are in backup mode, depending on the size of your battery, you should still attempt to conserve energy where possible.

sonnen batterie tesla powerwall

What If There Is Damage to My Solar Electric System?

In the extremely unlikely event that you notice physical damage to your solar system or panels, perhaps from flying debris, do not attempt to turn you solar on or even physically inspect the solar. Again, you should maintain the same, extreme caution, similar to if you were to come in contact with downed power lines. Do not approach or touch your solar system or panels.

In the event that your home has experienced damage that results in your solar system needing to be removed so other repairs can be made, please do not attempt to remove your solar system on your own. Please contact us, or your local solar electric installer and they will make the arrangements to remove your solar system safely. Be sure to document all of your damage if you intend to make an insurance claim.

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