How sturdy/ weather-resistant are the solar panels in terms of damage by strong winds and/or hail?

“Three months ago, we had the worst hailstorm anyone here could ever remember,” Pope says. “It was unbelievable — three-inch chunks of ice falling from the sky. There was absolutely no damage to the panels. They’re designed for a 90 mph wind load, and as firmly as they’re anchored, a windstorm would pretty much have to demolish the poultry house in order to dislodge the panels.”

Today’s panels have excellent longevity — even after a quarter-century of exposure to the elements, they’re expected to continue producing at 80 percent of rated efficiency, Pope says

He can monitor, from any computer or smart phone, the operation of each solar panel in real time — how much power the panel is producing, if there are any issues with the panel or inverter, how much power the panel has produced for the year, and other key information.

He pulls up the grid for his panels on his smart phone and says with a smile, “We’ve had a really good year thus far.”

(You can see for yourself the operation of his solar array at www.schoolsonsolar.com; click on “Energy Production,” then “Poultry Farm.” You can also see similar displays for the Northwest Rankin School and the Hegman solar carport.)

Pope, who grew up on the poultry farm operated by his father, earned a degree in landscape architecture at Mississippi State University, and came back to the farm in 1997.

“I’m the fifth generation on this place,” he says. “It’s important to me to make this work and to do everything I can to carry on the business that I took over from my father.”

hbrandon@farmpress