Wind Turbines and Solar Panels Are Destroyed by Severe Wind and Hail

(p. A15) The footage from southwest Iowa is shocking: In the trail of a tornado, a wind turbine is bent in half like a cheap straw, its hub engulfed in flames and thick black smoke, its blades on the ground.

“You’re seeing multiple of these big wind turbine towers that have been destroyed,” Zane Satre, a meteorologist for KCCI 8 News in Des Moines, told viewers. “These are big tall ones — I think they’re what, like 250 feet tall? Well that tornado took them out.”

. . .

The damage in Iowa to three turbines was part of a spell of bad weather that struck the state on Tuesday [May 21, 2024], . . .

. . .

When it comes to extreme weather and renewable energy, the larger problem is the vulnerability of solar panels to hailstorms, Mr. McLachlan said.

To reduce costs, panels have become larger over time, and the glass has become thinner, making it more likely to crack when hail strikes. That’s happening as more solar panels are being installed in the hail-prone Midwest — and as the frequency and severity of hail increase.

The standard way to protect solar panels from hailstones is to change their angle, Mr. McLachlan said, tipping them so that their surface is less exposed to direct hits. But that creates a new problem: those panels start to act like sails, catching the winds that often accompany hail, increasing the risk of blowing away.

Hail made up 54 percent of incurred costs from insurance claims for the solar sector over the past five years, according to a report from GCube last year, despite accounting for just 1.4 percent of claims. Growing losses from hail have made it harder to get insurance for solar projects, Mr. McLachlan said.

For the full story see:

Christopher Flavelle. “Giants Built for a Gale Crumple to the Ground.” The New York Times (Thursday, May 23, 2024): A15.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 22, 2024, and has the title “Tornado Pummels Wind Turbines in Iowa.”)

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