This time of year we begin to see a lot of misinformation surrounding solar power, solar panel efficiency, and the use of solar power in communities where winter is harsher than the sunny coasts of Western and Southern states. It revolves around the prevailing idea that cold and snow will have a detrimental effect on the productivity of residential or commercial solar systems. As we’ve written before, this is a myth about the solar industry that tends to resurface when the weather takes a turn. Fortunately, J-Tech Solar is here to right all the misinformation and share the true facts about utilizing solar panels in snowy climates.
HOW SOLAR PANELS PERFORM IN COLD WEATHER
As it happens, the myth that solar panels become less powerful in the cold is simply untrue. Actually the opposite may in fact be true as many experts suggest that solar panels are even more effective when winter hits.
There are a few reasons for this. First, cooler weather keeps photovoltaic panels from overheating. While it might seem counterintuitive, the performance of solar panels can decline in extremely high temperatures. Like all electronic devices, PV panels can have a hard time baking in the sun. Take a smartphone for example; if left out in the blistering heat, you’re likely to get a temperature warning which says your phone needs to cool down before using it again. While PV panels are built to withstand quite a bit of heat, too much of it for a long stretch of time can cause performance issues in some cases. During winter, there’s no risk of overheating. The seasonal weather provides a cooler environment for solar panels to function optimally, leading to increased energy production in the winter.
Snow also helps to clean solar panels. When it melts and inevitably slides off, you’re left with a sparkling clean solar system that’s ready to take in the power of the sun. This self-cleaning effect ensures that the panels are clear and can receive direct sunlight, maximizing energy production. Additionally, the reflection from snow on the ground counteracts the gloomy, cloudy winter skies that many people believe undercut the productivity of PV panels. Snow acts as a mirror, reflecting an abundance of light straight to solar panels.
If you’re still skeptical, look to Germany for the truth. The country has a typically cold, cloudy climate all year, and yet it produces a ton of solar power—over 27 percent of the country’s total power usage came from solar energy in 2014 and they’ve been pushing that number higher ever since!
TIPS ON KEEPING PERFORMANCE HIGH
Although winter is ideal for solar panel productivity, there are a few things you should do as an owner to get the most out of your investment. Firstly, don’t let heavy snows accumulate on panels. This makes it hard for light to shine through and can impact the amount of energy your system can produce. The improved performance of solar power in the winter is dependent on having direct sunlight without obstruction. A long-handled broom or a roof rake are both great tools to help clear off panels positioned on rooftops, and those on the ground are even easier to keep clear. Even when they’re completely covered, your PV panels will produce some electricity, but keeping them clear of snow and other debris will ensure optimal efficiency.
Talking to installers about placement before you get solar panels is the best way to keep them clear through the winter. Opt for a southern-facing system if you have the chance and make sure your panels will be angled instead of lying flat. This placement helps to melt snow quickly, and the angle of the panels means that wet, heavy snow will slide off your system faster than if it were laying flat.For all the latest news on renewable energy, solar power, and other eco-friendly ideas, follow the J-Tech Solar blog; we publish a new article every week. If you’re looking to install solar power in your own home or business, call J-Tech Solar today! We love helping members of our community begin their renewable energy journey.