Home on Golf Course with Solar Panels in Florida

Will Golf Balls Damage Solar Panels?

In Education

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.