Will Golf Balls Damage Solar Panels?

Note: this article covers golf balls and solar electric panels, not solar pool heating panels which are not susceptible to costly damage from golf ball strikes.

This Southwest Florida golf course home has solar panels oriented away from the tee box, mitigating risk of golf ball strikes.
This Southwest Florida golf course home has solar panels oriented away from the tee box, mitigating the risk of golf ball strikes and damage.

In Florida we have lots of homes located along golf courses, and naturally homeowners are concerned about golf balls damaging solar panels. While this is a legitimate concern, damage is rare and the risk can be mitigated in many circumstances.

The first thing to note is that solar electric (photovoltaic) panels are covered by tempered glass in an aluminum frame. This glass is extremely durable, and can withstand the weight of a person standing in the middle of the panel. Like any tempered glass, it is designed to prevent the glass from breaking apart when it shatters, like a windshield on a car. While golf ball strikes are not part of required testing, solar panels are tested to withstand 1 inch hail striking the panel at over 50 mph. This closely approximates a golf ball, so in theory the resilience of a panel to hail should give you some peace of mind.

Since golf balls have a trajectory that is rarely directly perpendicular to solar panels, a glancing blow should reduce the risk of damage. In order to mitigate the risk, placing solar panels on a roof where strikes are unlikely or where a glancing blow would be more likely is a best practice, but sometimes it is simply not feasible.

Damage from golf ball strikes is rare. In fact, I have not personally seen a panel broken from physical damage from falling debris or projectiles during normal circumstances. If damage does occur, the same rules and laws would apply to a golf ball breaking a window, roof tile, or your car (if the golfer is as bad as I am). In some places the golf course is responsible, but most likely the golfer that made the shot would be at fault. Of course, finding the person that did the damage is challenging and unlikely unless they come forward.

If a golf ball were to damage your solar panel, it would not be catastrophic. The panel would likely continue to deliver power, although at a lower rate. If you have a microinverter-based system, only the output of that one panel would be affected until replaced. Further good news is that solar panels are now relatively inexpensive. In fact, solar panels themselves only comprise about 1/4th of the cost of an installed system today.

There is little to worry about in terms of golf balls hitting solar panels. You should approach the problem the same way you do with the rest of your home. You would not want to install a single-pane window in a strike-prone location, and so you should select your solar panel location with similar risk mitigation in mind. As for the occasional strike, you take that risk every day with your roof, screens, and other property. The risk is minimized by the low cost of solar panels, and the system can be designed to make sure a damaged panel does not impact the overall system performance.

  • Comment (4)
  • blank Robert J Swain says:

    I tend to agree with James Fuller. In six months under similar circumstances I have had two panels broken. They still produce electricity. The question now is: are they a fire hazard?????????
    My installer wants to replace everyone hit immediately.
    Anybody able to discuss the danger?

    PS Location is not that easy as you assume.

    • blank Jason Szumlanski says:

      Although the risk may be relatively low, there is a risk of fire or shock with a broken solar panel. We would advise removing and/or replacing it, and most certainly do NOT touch it unless you are a qualified contractor.

      If there is no suitable location at your home to mitigate the risk of solar panel damage, we recommend against installing them.

  • blank James Fuller says:

    Probably one of the most ill informed and ignorant articles ever written regarding damage to solar panels from golf balls.

    Panels do break when struck by balls. Eighteen of my 36 panels are broken. All the result of 200 yard tee errant shots.

    At least have the decency to speak truthfully.

    • blank Jason Szumlanski says:

      James,

      I specifically wrote:

      “You would not want to install a single-pane window in a strike-prone location, and so you should select your solar panel location with similar risk mitigation in mind.”

      It sounds like you installer did not take due caution in locating your panels. Locating panels in the trajectory of likely errant shots at 200 yards is not good design practice.

      I stand by what I wrote. At the time of publication I had not seen a single panel in golf-happy Southwest Florida shattered by golf balls or falling debris. Since then I have seen one panel that looked like it was damaged due to vandalism or perhaps a ball of some type (not on a golf course). And I’ve seen many thousands of solar panels.

      Furthermore, I didn’t say solar panels can’t break from golf ball strikes. What I said is that they will not break apart when they shatter because it is tempered glass.

      Finally, there are some solar panel leasing companies that even provide a warranty against golf ball damage. Of course, they take due care in where panels are located to mitigate risk, which is exactly what I recommended.

      Thats the truth.

Share the post

Related Solar Education Article

Scroll to Top