Are Solar Panels Protected From An EMP?

First, there are two basic types of mono or polycrystalline panels. Fixed frame and portable.

The fixed frame are rigid panels around 18 x 18 inches to as big as 24 x 48 inches and larger. They have a rigid aluminum frame for secure mounting and a tempered glass or hard plastic front.

These are primarily for permanently mounting on a roof of a house or structure, top of vehicle, or in some cases portable. The nominal voltage is 12 or 24 volts and can be wired in series or parallel to get higher current or voltage or both.

Portable panels have been around only a short time. They appeared about 2015 or so and are flexible. Some can be folded or rolled up and can be carried around in a backpack. They come in various sizes and shapes and can be used at your campsite, field use, emergency power needs. They cost around a dollar and a half per watt. So a 60 watt panel could go for $90 to $100. Most have one or two 5 volt USB sockets and a 12-18 volt jack for supplying a charge controller to achieve 12 volts.

 

Both the rigid aluminum panels and portable panels are relatively waterproof as long as the connections are rain tight.

To answer the question if they are safe from an EMP is this:

The actual panels are probably going to withstand an EMP strike but the charge controllers will not survive an EMP. In the fixed panels the charge controller could be mounted on the back of each panel and using a micro inverter similar to an Enphase it will generate 117 volts house current right at each panel. They are all connected in parallel to achieve a higher current that can be used to tie into your house power in order to "sell back" power to the power company or to reduce your total power consumption.

Obviously there is a lot more to this than described here and only a professional solar system installer should be used to make sure you are in compliance with all Electrical Codes. The traditional panels just have the 12 or 24 volt outputs wired to 48 or 96 volts and have a common charge controller/inverter/line tie system to hook to your house and possibly "sell back" power to the power company.

In either case, these charge controllers WILL NOT survive an EMP and there's little that can be done to prevent damage to the controllers. It is best to just keep spare charge controllers in hardened containers so if an EMP hit occurs, you just replace the controllers.

With portable flexible or foldup panels, the charge controller will also be destroyed and will have to be replaced to use them. The charge controller is a small plastic box attached to the back of, or inside a pocket of the fabric carrying case. See Repairing a portable solar panel for details. The charge controller uses an electronic chip for the 5 volt USB outputs that will fail with an EMP strike.

The raw unregulated 12-18 volts from the 12 volt output has no electronics since it is wired directly to the panel cells.

When it comes time to repair them after an EMP, a technician has to disassemble the controller module and replace the defective chip if they are available. It would be wise to determine what chip it uses and keep a number of spares on hand in a hardened container.

The other option is to use an external controller with the electronics in it to be able to use it. This could be as simple as the Charge Controller as seen here. They can be purchased on Amazon for about US$12.00

 

 

Copyright 2022 Rick C. Version 0.1 March 26, 2022