The 6th September 2017 will remain as a notable day that all the people of Antigua and Barbuda will remember. Irma, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Caribbean, exceeding category 5, has then hit the twin island state with its devastating power. The island of Barbuda suffered from the highest impact, with 90% of constructions wiped away by the strong wind blowing at consistently 300 km/h and way above in gusts. Antigua at only 50 km distance from the eye of the storm and well within the devastating display of natural forces suffered less damage, but was affected seriously as well with sustained winds exceeding at times 275 km/h.
This devastating natural disaster has even more underlined the importance of a diligent and reliable approach in terms of planning and installing PV solar systems in hurricane-prone regions. Since the clean energy provider PV Energy adapted the design, mounting and structuring of its solar power racking systems and solar panels to the potential risk of hurricanes, almost all solar systems designed and installed by PV Energy sustained the devastation through Irma.
Designed to withstand hurricanes of up to the category 4, each of the 55 solar power installations on Antigua, ranging from several kWp to the 3 MWp and 4 MWp utility scale installations at the international airport of Antigua and in the Lavington/Bethesda region with a total of 38,000 panels mounted, have survived hurricane Irma without damages or substantial system failures.
One of these PV systems, based on a 50 kWp sun2safe hybrid converter, was even able to generate 25% of its maximum expected performance during the worst hours of the hurricane, thanks to its proprietary MPPT tracking algorithm which is able to optimise the production even under extreme weather conditions.
Load test for racking systems, ramming depths for the pillars of the substructures as well as reinforced frames and modules are just a few key factors to be considered for planning and installing robust solar energy plants.