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Hurricane Florence did nothing to budge these solar panels installed by Power Home Solar

One of the questions Power Home Solar often gets from customers is how our solar panels fare against Mother Nature’s extremes. How do our solar panels handle hot and cold weather? How do they handle hail? Or even, how do they handle hurricanes?

For that final scenario, Power Home customer Matt Ruff knows firsthand that our panels, manufactured by Mission Solar, hold up just fine, thank you.

About a month ago, Ruff and his family rode out Hurricane Florence in their Supply, N.C., home, which is located about 30 miles southwest of Wilmington, N.C., one of the areas hit hardest by the storm and its flooding, and about a dozen miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. The storm brought the area winds of 100 miles per hour and rainfall totaling 30 inches.

Still, as a veteran of riding out hurricanes dating back to Hurricane Diana in 1984, Ruff wasn’t terribly worried about his own safety or that of his family because he knew his home was built like “a tank” and that his home sits on some of the highest ground in Brunswick County. But he was plenty worried about whether the 26 solar panels he had installed on a ground-mounted array by Power Home would hold up, especially when earlier forecasts called for Florence to be a Category 4 storm.

As an electrician who has installed plenty of utility scale solar, he has seen what high winds, particularly tornadoes, can do to panels. Yet as he documented to friends and relatives on Facebook Live how he was holding up throughout the storm, he continually saw that his panels were always in their rightful place. You’ll see those panels in the video below.

“These panels, they didn’t wiggle,” Ruff said. “They didn’t move through the storm. I can’t commend the installation enough. The guys that did it, did a great job.”

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Because Power Home interconnects its solar systems to a customer’s power grid, Ruff and his family were without power for as long as his non-solar neighbors were – for 3½ days. The panels shut down for safety reasons, as they cannot be sending power back to the grid while utility workers are repairing the lines. Once the backside of the storm’s eye wall passed over and the wind changed direction, it was lights out for about 84 hours.

“It blew one way for so long, when it comes back and blows the other way, it doesn’t take long for the weak stuff to snap, fall, or give way,” Ruff said.

But again, Ruff’s solar panels were A-OK, he and his family were OK, and his home was fine except for one downed tree and flooding on lower-lying land on his property that remains to this day. It was just the areas and communities around him that truly felt the storm and its effects.

Ruff and his family were living on an island for a few days before the water level receded, but he noticed how quickly teams mobilized to repair all the damage. He saw how the state’s Department of Transportation worked to repair roads that had been washed out by flash flooding. And a little bit nearer to his own heart given his occupation, he watched as hundreds of power line trucks went into action.

“We saw the line trucks coming and going every day on our quiet country road where we hardly ever get traffic because of this large staging area (near my home),” Ruff said. “Every morning and every night, it was 400 line trucks going by the house, and it was a beautiful thing to see, that was really cool — those guys coming in big numbers and getting it done for us. They came in from all over, and they got Brunswick County sorted out pretty quick.”

What’s still left to sort out are all the areas devastated by uprooted trees and flooding. Ruff knows how fortunate he is, as he talks about seeing rows of soaked personal belongings out in front of homes waiting for garbage trucks to haul away the mess.

“I can’t even imagine,” Ruff said. “It’s so sad.”

While Hurricane Michael’s more recent landfall in Florida’s panhandle has made that storm top of mind for most Americans, there are still people who need help in North Carolina and South Carolina. I asked Ruff if he could recommend organizations that could use donations to continue helping those in his area, and he mentioned the American Red Cross, which has been on the scene since the storm hit. The American Red Cross has documented all it has done for those following this storm, and it is impressive. At the very bottom of that page is a link to donate to the organization’s disaster relief efforts. Anything you can do to help is indeed appreciated.

Eventually, the North Carolina and South Carolina coasts will return to normal, albeit the landscape will have changed some. What hasn’t changed is in Ruff’s backyard — his panels are once again giving him the level of energy independence that can be enjoyed by Power Home customers.

And for those wondering about the durability of solar panels, Ruff’s experience is another nod to that. It is impossible for Power Home to say that the panels it installs are hurricane-proof. But it is great to hear that at least in Ruff’s case, the panels proved their resilience.