Will EMP Disable Solar Panels?

I thought this was some good information from many different people that left comments on the site survivalistblog.net emp11

thats a good one….well a backup is a good idea for whatever reason. i think from my experience that it would be no need for a faraday. i would, with all working systems, install a cut off switch on both sides of the system. lightning is always in play.

Personaly when it comes to emp. I am more worried about a nuke going off then the powergrid.

A nuke delivered to maximize EMP would detonate so high in the atmosphere (20+ miles up) that there would be no discernible effects unless you happened to be looking right at it when it detonated. You might not even be able to hear it. Now a tactically delivered nuke, on the other hand….

EMP will probably (50% chance) be a nuke. Those who would do it have only a few so efficiency is the word. Detonate at 300 miles high and you wipe out electronics in a 1400 mile RADIUS from the point of detonation. Iran has tested the Shahab 3 launched from a cargo ship with an EMP flight profile. Launch a missile from 200 miles off New Orleans then sink the ship. Who would you strike back at IF you could?

Most solar panels use diodes to control current flow. Diodes are semiconductors and depending upon circumstances, might be burned out by an EMP. More importantly, the charge controller and inverter are likely to get toasted.

Here’s an idea for protecting one panel at a time:

This quickly becomes cost prohibitive because any panel being protected is not in use.

The solar cells themselve are diodes, and a large array of them could potentially receive a lot of energy from the event, causing significant, but random damage.

All EMP and other electrical noise has a frequency and the frequency is inversely proportional to the wavelength, i.e. the higher the frequency, the shorter the wavelength. EMP tends to be a lower frequency pulse, which needs a long antenna to pick it up. When I was a child in Hawaii, in 1962, there was a fusion device of about 2 megatons which was detonated in low space, about 900 miles away, and the test was called Starfish Prime. We were told about it and watched it from the south side of the island. It took out some 300 streetliights, long antennas in the form of the wiring, and a microwave link on the Island of Kauai, doubtless from its antenna, the power line supplying it. It did affect some radio or TV stations as well. It did not take out our car radio which was a hybrid mix of tubes and germanium (early type) transistors. It did not take out our small transistor radios around the house.

On the other hand I got a hefty shock from my laptop about 10 years ago when a lightning strike a good mile away ( I counted from the flash to the thunder) initiated a thunder storm, and induced a pulse in the buried telephone cable which provided my service. All the phone wiring was buried, yet a pulse was induced. The laptop was destroyed and although I didn’t suffer any burns, I got quite a shock. Again it is the length of the effective antenna.
With solar panels which are installed, the leads from the panels to the charge controller and battery bank can pick up the pulse and fry the panels, although in my brother’s installation that has not happened during the past 20 or so years he has had solar. He has had some parts fry in his Trace inverter on a couple of occasions, and the lead length to his panels is probably a bit more than 100 feet. Each pulse type will be a different frequency, lightning, solar flare, nuke emp and conventionally generated emp, so the results can vary. For safety, assemble the system to test it, then take it apart and store it until needed. Alternatively, at least keep some panels set aside in case the main ones fail. A charge controller is not so much a necessity as some may think. It is important to not overcharge your batteries, but a simple voltmeter will allow you to assess the state of charge and disconnect when it gets full. That is less likely than running the system down and harming the batteries by causing them to sulfate.


Yes, it will in addition to the diodes the solar cell itself is nothing more than a large PN Junction photodiodes themselves that put out a small amount of energy, that when teamed up with others in the panel make enough current to make usable power.

A EMP strike will destroy these semiconductors in a instant.


What causes the large voltage spikes are long conductor runs; longer conductor runs means more induced voltage from the EMP; the voltage causes damage either by exceeding the limits of the insulators (wires, capacitors) or the junctions (diodes, transistors, other semi-conductors).

So to limit damage, perhaps disconnect the lines running from the panels to the controller/inverter, etc? With both ends of the lines disconnected, the lengths of the conductors in the panels are limited to the dimension of the solar panel; that might be enough to keep the panels safe. If the panels survive, then the other electronics (likely with shorter conductor runs) should survive, too.

I’ve wondered about this also. My place has never been connected to the electrical grid and I grew-up without electricity, so I COULD live perfectly well without the solar panels, but having them operational certainly makes life easier – esp. as I grow older.

After some discussions with JeffoftheWest on this topic a while back, I did some experiments using copper mesh to cover a couple of panels trying to imitate what you see in a microwave oven glass door – but I found the power output of the panels immediately dropped to the point of making them almost useless and trying to keep the mesh clean enough to get ANY power from the panels was a nightmare.

As I chose this location 40+ years ago factoring in it’s survivability of a nuclear exchange, I’m hoping an EMP won’t have much affect here, but I do maintain the hand water pumps, etc., so that’s about the only advice I can give, be sure to have alternate ways of doing everything that you now rely on electricity to do for you – just in case.


 I don’t think you can actually use your faraday cage at the same time you’re using the panels — at least not with any possibility of getting full value out of the panels. The whole problem, as I see it, with faraday cages is that they are really only useful if you know the EMP is coming, and can protect your outfit accordingly. Since the whole point of an EMP strike is surprise, it always seemed to me like a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” kind of deal. And even if we don’t assume some hostile human agency providing the EMP, solar weather patterns are still a good deal less understood even than terrestrial ones, and while they can predict flares and the like, they can’t really do a very good job of predicting EMP results from those flares (geometry has as much to do with it as anything else, and solar flares have been known to propagate in some pretty strange ways as they are emitted, which can change the impact geometry quite a bit from predictions).

Anyway, I never even thought of the problems of CLEANING them — though as soon as you said it, I had one of those “d’oh” moments we all love. The only way to overcome that (that I can see) is get the mesh encased in glass — and even then you’d still have a cleaning issue; though probably not nearly as severe. I’ll bet you’d have the exact same cleaning problems with “wire cloth” (i.e., “window screens”) they’re talking about in that article….


It’s a nightmare to protect them and probably easier to just use 30% or 50% of your panels, keeping the rest in protected storage.

Here is a good article on the matter.

“by surrounding the panels with aluminum wire cloth (also known as hardware cloth). .. Aluminum wire cloth with openings of 0.4 to 0.5 inches will not only supply a certain amount of EMP protection, but can provide some protection against larger hailstones that can cause damage in severe weather. The wire cloth will block some of the sunlight, but the right size of wire cloth will block less than 15 to 25 percent of the sunlight. If you are making a new solar panel system, some consideration should be given to putting the solar panels inside of a cage made of aluminum wire cloth. ”

I doubt I would bother myself.


I recently purchased a complete solar system (Solar Essentials….. something) from an online retailer (www.customsurvivalsolutions.com). It’s great because when the power goes out it’ll power my fridge long enough to maintain it’s chill, keeping my food safe and frozen foods frozen. Additionally, I can use it to power a small microwave and recharge cell phones, laptops, ipads, etc., etc. I keep the generator plugged in so it always has a full charge, but only bring out the panels when the power goes out.

In regards to after an EMP strike either from a tactical nuke or a solar flare, it may not matter because unless you have everything wrapped in a Faraday cage or Faraday blanket, it’ll all be fried anyways so what would you have to use?

My main purpose for getting one is for if, more like when, the power grid goes down….. which may be sooner than we all think (see article athttp://www.customsurvivalsolutions.com/when-the-lights-go-out-on-november-13-2013/). Interesting stuff there.

I don’t think cut-off switches would work in an EMP.

I am curious to read what OhioPrepper thinks about that. In any way, I suggest you read this : http://www.futurescience.com/emp/A2473-EMP-Commission.pdf


My current understanding – from a fair amount of research (all of which is suspect to some degree or another )

Nuclear EMP pluses have frequencies that go in the the Gigahertz. Dedicated EMP devices are usually only in the gigahertz range and tend to be short range.
Solar EMP (geomagnetic storms – tend to be lower frequency – (megahertz maybe?)

Nuclear EMP:
The E1 Pulse is extremely fast – is will likely blow out most of the surge suppressors before the can react – followed immediately by the things that were supposed to be protected. (there’s some indication very high end – military – surge suppressors might hold up). Very very short lived but energetic.

The E2 Pulse will take out most of what didn’t get fried by the E1 pulse – similar to a lighting strike)
The E3 Pulse comes next – and may last a few minutes. This is the one that’s most likely to destroy the grid. (after the grid has been used as an antenna and router to take out all the things plugged into it).

It’s almost like it was planned that way 🙂

To have an effective Faraday cage, you need to consider the highest frequency your trying to protect against.

The conversion is wavelength(meters) = 300 / frequency (megahertz)
1 GHz = 1000 MHz
The wavelength of a 10 GHz signal is approx 3cm or just under 1.2 inches.

The pulse created though the grid is estimated to be much to fast to be interrupted by any available surge protection. Basically, if it’s connected to wires – it’s gone (very high energy / low frequency), if it’s delicate – it’s gone (high energy / short wavelength).

I’ve seen some research that indicates a nuclear EMP might have an effect as high as 100 GHz – it was unclear to me if those frequencies are really much of an issue. If so, anything with holes much bigger than 1/10 of an inch will allow some energy to enter the cage.


What you describe is why we should build our faraday cages out of solid metal. From layers of aluminum foil to galvanized trash cans, building one is rather straight forward. Many commercial units that are somewhat room sized, are build from copper mesh, allowing both light and air to pass through, however, I have been in a few that are solid rooms with tight fitting doors. For the individual with a limited budget, a lot of smaller ones is a better way to protect individual items, and spread out the potential damage.

Didn’t someone have a link the last time we had this discussion about how to build a working faraday cage out of a metal file cabinet or something? If you have one of those, you could just get in the habit of putting your laptop, iPhone, tab, or whatever in there at night or when you weren’t using them.

A quick, cheap, and dirty test of any Faraday cage type device is to build it first. Take it to a very strong signal cell coverage area. Put a cell phone in the cage and call it. If the phone answers, you need to check your shielding. (generally where two surfaces meet such as a door) If the phone just sits there, you have some protection. Just how much? You would need a bit more test equipment for that. It is test equipment that only a few specialized companies have and it is extremely expensive to have them do these tests for you.

The comments cover a wide area but hopefully you get the idea. I guess the big question is, what can you live without in case of a EMP.