How Maxeon Solar Panels Beat the Growing Threat of Hailstorms

How Maxeon Solar Panels Beat the Growing Threat of Hailstorms

Solar Technology

According to Scientific American, some parts of the world will see an increase in the frequency of hailstorms, along with more damaging hail, even as the planet warms. Severe hailstorms that scientists believe are driven by climate change, coupled with rising populations in areas prone to violent weather, already pummeled insurers in 2023. 
When it comes to solar, we’ve seen an increase in media reports profiling the impact of damaging hailstorms on installations around the world. More frequent hail, with greater severity, potentially means more risk of panel damage that can affect energy production and economics for solar panel owners. The net result is more people than ever are concerned about hail damage. 

The good news is that Maxeon panels are uniquely engineered to stand up to the increasing severity of weather events brought on by climate change.   

Maxeon’s back-contact IBC panels, marketed outside of the U.S. under the SunPower brand, are IEC-certified for impact resistance from hailstones up to 45 mm in diameter, significantly greater than many competing solar panels. Achieving this exceptional resistance standard provides increased reliability and durability to support a wider range of solar installations globally. Clearly, the outstanding performance of Maxeon panels in third-party impact resistance testing is essential to battling extreme weather.

The Maxeon difference

Unlike a lot of solar panels being marketed today, Maxeon panels have a history of impact resistance. This includes test reports dating back to 2020-21 confirming resilience to 45 mm hailstones.  

And we never get tired of highlighting the fundamental differences of the Maxeon solar cell that enable industry leading reliability and performance—whether in the face of high heat, extreme cold, shading, or in the case of today’s topic, hail.  

The Maxeon cell’s solid metal foundation once again serves as a key point of differentiation. Because of their unique construction, Maxeon cells can absorb a lot of stress. If cracks ultimately do form in the silicon layer of the cell, the metal foundation maintains electrical conductivity to ensure customers continue getting the energy production they expect. 

Maxeon IBC panels also leverage robust cell connections with built-in strain relief to provide resilience against temperature changes that can accompany extreme weather events. Metallic components embedded in solar panels are prone to fatigue and damage from thermal expansion and contraction as temperatures rapidly heat up and cool down. And again, those robust cell connections are linked to a solid metal conductive foundation that envelops the cell’s silicon layer—creating an inherently more robust and reliable panel. 

Next, let’s talk about glass. We’re starting to see more industry speculation around glass limitations in solar panels. Maxeon IBC panels maintain a 3.2 mm front sheet of tempered glass that provides strong impact resilience. Other manufacturers, however, are trending toward increased production of dual glass bifacial products that have thinner front and back glass (2 mm). These thinner sheets aren’t robust enough to withstand the tempering process and therefore are only heat-strengthened which means they offer less durability than the Maxeon solar panel.  

It should also be noted that Maxeon’s bifacial Performance Line panels utilize thinner 2 mm front and back glass. Throughout our product development, which includes thorough assessments of competitive products, it was evident that not all 2 mm glass is the same. Therefore, we conduct rigorous due diligence to ensure the selection of innovative and reliable partners providing Maxeon glass that are committed to delivering a high-quality product for our customers. As such, Maxeon Performance panels are still able to deliver impact resistance up to 40 mm, while utilizing thinner 2 mm sheets of glass.  

One final thing to keep in mind related to current standards for hail testing is that after the testing has been completed, there’s no assessment of the potential for cell damage below the surface. It’s one thing to have sturdy glass that doesn’t break easily upon impact, but it’s a completely different challenge to mitigate long term reliability impacts from cell cracks. Today’s testing does not require electroluminescent scans of panels to assess cell cracking, nor do they recommend additional mechanical load testing that could force microcracks to propagate and become more visible. Again, both issues are mitigated by the solid metal foundation of the Maxeon cell.  

In addition to IEC certification, our independent hail testing includes the more stringent standards issued by the VKF (Vereinigung Kantonaler Feuerversicherungen) association of cantonal fire insurers out of Switzerland. The VKF test criteria establishes five categories of hail resilience, with Maxeon panels achieving the exceptional HW 4 standard. While IEC is still the industry benchmark, VKF certification should be viewed as a complement to IEC certification—highlighting another way in which we’re going the extra mile to reinforce the reliability specifications for our panels.      

While no solar panel is 100% hail-proof, given the superior characteristics in cell and panel design discussed here, you should have increased confidence that Maxeon panels are well-suited to stand up to the increasing frequency and severity of storms being brought on by climate change. 

Author: Tom Scalli, Maxeon Senior Product Marketing Manager