Can Animals Damage Solar Panels?


This is a major concern for many people, especially those who are going to be living off the grid or looking to create a sustainable off the grid setup. What’s the point of having solar power if it goes out every time a curious squirrel checks out the solar panel array?

So does that type of thing happen, or is this scene just something out of an old Hollywood movie? Can animals damage your solar panels?

While damage to solar panels can sometimes occur because of animals like birds, squirrels, and raccoons, this is actually quite uncommon when installation is done properly. Most of the time the damage is to vulnerable wiring, not the solar panels themselves.

The gallery here shows huge storm damage from the Derecho that hit Iowa in August of 2020 (Google it – it’s really insane!) as well as a couple pictures of the solar panels that held up where 100 or 200 year old trees couldn’t.

What’s this have to do with the questions of whether or not animals can damage solar panels?

Understanding just how tough the solar panels themselves can be helps you see that there aren’t many vulnerabilities here. These panels aren’t delicate. They are designed to take a beating and keep on working.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some weak points to look out for.

What Animals Are Known for Damaging Solar Panels?

Generally speaking you have three main culprits when it comes to animals that damage solar panels.

  • Squirrels
  • Birds
  • Raccoons

If there are issues it’s usually around these. The problem isn’t the panels themselves, but wires need to run from the panels to the battery or power box that is actually storing and making the electricity available.

Squirrel looking evil
Nice wires you have there. Be a shame if someone…nibbled on them!

So while animals can’t damage solar panels in normal circumstances, it is possible for them to damage the wires that are necessary to make the solar panels useful.

In other words, they can damage the array setup, in which case the incredible durability of the solar panels ceases to matter.

How Can I Protect My Solar Panels from Animal Damage?

The biggest step here is to see how animals like nesting birds or curious hungry squirrels end up damaging your solar power setup. Since wires are the weak spot in the system, those are what you need to keep an eye on protecting.

How to Protect Your Solar Array from Animals

The good news is that animals damaging your solar setup is actually pretty rare. Even so, you can take a few easy steps that will help make those rare potential incidents even less likely to happen.

Step One: Proper Installation

Solar has been a legitimate power option for quite some time. What does that mean? It means that methods, materials, and installation tactics have changed based on decades of data and feedback.

Proper installation is designed to minimize exposing any wires, and wires shouldn’t just be bare. They will be protectively covered, and even that outer covering will be exposed as little as possible.

The less potential points of failure that are exposed to problem animals, the fewer issues you should have.

Step Two: Consider Critter Guards and/or Bird Netting

This is an easy way to keep rodents, birds, and other pests out where they don’t belong. This is a simple step that needs to be taken once the solar panels are setup.

One of our favorite critter guards for solar is the RoTak netting which can be found HERE on Amazon.

This is an easy step that can have a really big impact.

The netting looks like this:

Great example of this netting on a challenging roof – it’s even easier to set up on a non-ceramic tile roof.

Step Three: Occasional Visual Inspection

Nothing beats the good old fashioned visual checkup. One of the things that makes a spot tempting as shelter for animals or a nest for birds is if it is peaceful. If a big human comes by and is messing around the area frequently, then that spot becomes far less appealing.

This can also help you spot if there is an issue, like if an industrious squirrel has managed to work loose a wire enough to expose it and start chewing.

Spotting these issues early not only lets you fix it BEFORE you start losing power but also helps you to spot issues you might never have found otherwise.

Don’t skip out on those inspections. They can make all the difference.

Solar Panels Are Hurricane Tough

Solar panels themselves are going to be good. We found this out first hand in the summer of 2020 when relatively new solar panels are one of the only reasons the garage roof or house roof was undamaged when the Derecho hit Iowa.

We’re about the only house within blocks with no roof damage…and that garage was not great. There’s no way it’s still standing in one piece without those panels protecting the top.

You can catch the full blog post from my gaming group blog HERE that includes nearly 100 pictures of just how bad the damage to our city was. Put simply: it won’t recover in my lifetime.

Virtually every house in the surrounding blocks have had to be repaired, have roofs fixed, or have tarps tightly pulled across clearly damaged and leaking roofs.

Except ours. The solar panels on the roof were, frankly, like a Viking shield wall. Entire houses were torn apart just a block from here. The solar panels did not give AF.

So if they can survive thick tree branches, hurricane force wind, and all kinds of debris slammed into them by well over 100 mph wind then it’s hard to see how a squirrel or raccoon could screw up the solar panel itself.

Can a Solar System Be Damaged By Animals?

Now if the question isn’t just about the solar panels but whether or not animals can damage a solar system, then that’s a different issue.

As described above, there is a weak spot where pests can cause problems with your solar setup. And that’s with the wires. These are a necessary part of the setup but they’re not so tough against curious raccoons or nibbly squirrels.

So yes, animals can damage wiring. But by keeping this in mind and taking the proper precautions you should be in good shape.

True or False: Can Animals Damage Your Solar Panels?

In most situations the answer is no. Animals are not going to damage your solar panels. Now if the connective wiring isn’t done right, is exposed, or you just have an insanely persistent series of squirrels or birds then it is possible for damage to happen to the array because of wire damage.

However, solutions for this abounded as early as the middle 2000s and even this is a rare occurrence. As far as the solar panels themselves? If they can deflect giant oak branches tossed by nearly 200 mph winds, I don’t think a squirrel skittering across the side is going to do much to it.

Set up your solar array properly, put up netting to keep birds and squirrels out, and checkup on your setup and you should be good to go.

Shane

Hi, I'm Shane! I've always felt a passion for two worlds: one in technology and one for the great oudoors away from it. The amazing advances in solar power in my lifetime have really opened up the possibilities, and both my brother and I are deeply passionate about where solar power meets outdoor gear!

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