Solar energy is becoming a major contender in the energy market and is due to continuously grow due to the extension of the Solar Investment Tax Credit until 2017, which returns to the investor of the solar system 30 percent of its cost. However, while having expensive solar panels out in the open grants them access to the energy emitted by the Sun, it also makes them more susceptible to external threats in the open world, such as bad weather and even theft. Some of these can be controlled to some degree, while others are far more difficult to predict.
Solar power takes losses when there is no sun, not only because of the lack of photons that can be absorbed by the photovoltaic cells, but also from the damage that the solar array can suffer during aggressive weather. Snow can be very problematic for the solar panels, since it can pile on top of them, preventing the intake of energy and generating downward forces that can be damaging. This can add operation and management costs for labor to remove the snow to prevent any unwanted problems. However, simply having a solar array located in a location during winter does not necessarily mean that it will perform less than one located in a more temperate area or during the spring or summer. In fact, the cold temperatures and weather patterns of winter can enhance the output of a solar system. Due to the reflection of light off the snow and the increased efficiency of the silicon in the panels, the system can benefit greatly, as seen by Germany remaining the world leader in solar energy, despite its snowy winters.
Other weather patterns that can harm solar panels include hail and wind. Hail, unlike many forms of snow, can damage the silicon-based panels upon direct contact if they are greater than one-inch in diameter. Wind at great speeds can actually rip solar panels off roofs where they are placed. Fortunately, leaving the panels with less of an inclination off their surfaces can prevent them from blowing off.
Weather can be a significant external force impacting the performance of solar panels, but it can be managed. Different safeguards and management practices can make it easy to mitigate much of the impact. Additionally, standards for testing and measurement of solar technology give manufacturers of solar panels the guidelines to ensure their product is of the best quality. One issue with solar panels that can be somewhat harder to manage is that of theft.
Unfortunately, since solar theft is such a new phenomenon, there are little accurate statistics that portray the amount of panels that have been stolen in different parts of the world. Despite this, it is clear that this has become an issue in California, where there is a booming solar market, and solar panels have been stolen overnight, only to be uncovered for illegal internet resale not too soon thereafter. This has been speculated to have been performed by individuals in the solar industry, who are acquiring these panels to cut costs.
Solar panel theft is also incredibly problematic in developing countries. In these nations, which might favor the use of cheaper coal to generate electricity, it would seem ideal to introduce renewable technology that could limit their carbon footprint. However, many of these places are impoverished, and locals can see these panels as access to resources that they could make some money off of.
There are several options for managing solar panel theft, such as gluing a unit to a rooftop so that they cannot physically be removed. However, solutions like these can lead to more issues, such as preventing air flow or reducing the possibility of replacing an individual panel in this one example. Renewable forms of electricity generation, by being out in the open to capture clean sources of energy face issues that are not common with the management of conventional forms of electricity generation. Solar energy standards provide guidance on the construction, management, and testing of these panels to help confront these external forces, but owners of solar arrays need to make decisions that best suit their situation.