Strengthening Solar Photovoltaic Systems Ahead of Hurricane Season

June 30, 2022 by Kerrin Jeromin

NREL has supported Puerto Rico in energy planning since the devastating 2017 hurricane season and recently developed a new resource to help protect photovoltaic (PV) systems from extreme weather.

A street with flood water, damaged trees, and powerlines after a hurricane.
During Hurricane Maria in 2017, destructive winds damaged renewable energy technology across the island of Puerto Rico. Photo from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, San Juan

The resource comes just in time for hurricane season, as many vulnerable communities prepare for the potential impacts that lie ahead. In the Atlantic basin, hurricane season began on June 1 and continues through the end of November.

During the 2017 hurricane season, Puerto Rico was impacted by two hurricanes, Irma and Maria. And while many of Puerto Rico’s PV systems did survive the hurricanes, several did not. Post-event reports and site assessments indicate that much of the damage to PV systems could have been avoided by taking relatively simple pre-storm preventative measures.

With the Federal Emergency Management Administration, NREL experts have compiled a storm-ready resource to help Puerto Rico, and other communities vulnerable to hurricanes, prepare its PV systems for potential impacts from tropical systems. The goal of the resource is to increase the survivability of solar PV systems after a storm. Increasing survivability leads to more power available to users immediately after the storm.

The resource is available in two languages, English and Spanish, and is useful for people who have implemented solar PV in their communities where there is risk of extreme weather events.


Preparing Solar Photovoltaic Systems Against Storms


Preparación de sistemas solares fotovoltaicos contra tormentas

The resource provides:

  • An overview of the major components of PV system
  • Separate pre-storm "readiness" checklists for rooftop PV systems, ground-mounted systems, or large utility-scale systems
  • Guidance on when and how to use the checklists
  • Additional resources to learn more about solar and storms.

The storm-hardening checklist provides storm preparation actions that can increase the chances that solar PV systems are available following a severe weather event. Larger-scale PV systems can be used for essential services such as regional health care centers, emergency shelters, and water and wastewater treatment plants. Smaller-scale systems can provide local services such as refrigeration, communications, or mobile phone charging.

Although this resource was developed as part of NREL’s continued support to Puerto Rico, the resource and checklists may be valuable for any PV installation professional in hurricane-prone regions.

Learn how NREL, the U.S. Department of Energy, and five other national laboratories are providing energy planning and support for Puerto Rico.