Do Solar Panels Work During Winter?
The winter months can feel like an eternity for those in colder climates. And as you batten down the hatches, it’s natural to wonder how your power system will fare. Perhaps you’ve broached the subject of solar but are a little apprehensive about the cold. You probably even googled solar panels NJ and saw a few solutions, but you’re still unsure.
Here’s the good news: solar panels work well in colder temperatures. What? That’s right. Well, solar panels don’t need direct sunlight (heat) to convert energy; they need daylight. They can even convert indirect light from a cloudy day into usable electricity.
Hence, in the winter months, when there’s less sunlight (due to shorter days), solar panels still generate electricity, albeit at a lower rate than in the summer. Typically, the reduced output in winter occurs due to shorter daylight hours – not because it’s cold outside.
The snow and ice can also create a barrier, prohibiting light rays from reaching the photovoltaic cells. Let’s review some variables impacting solar panels efficiency before discussing how to maximize your investment, even in winter. But first…
A Science Lesson
Solar panels comprise photovoltaic cells. When the sun’s photon particles hit these cells, they emit electrons that flow through a material and create an electrical current. This current is routed to an inverter, converted from DC to AC, and made usable for your home.
Remember how electrons and atoms interact? The same principle applies here. On a microscopic level, the temperature affects how quickly these electrons and atoms interact. But not in the way you’d expect.
Research has shown that solar panels can produce more energy in cold weather than in searing heat. That’s because a higher temperature causes the atoms to move faster, making them less likely to be captured by the electrons. Conversely, high energy (light, not heat) activates the electrons, producing more power. As a result, the cells tend to be more efficient when colder. Still not convinced?
Take Massachusetts, for instance. The Bay State gets roughly 197 days of sunshine compared to Texas’ 240 days. Did you know the former is among the top solar states in the country? We’re talking about 3,380 MW of solar capacity. This implies the cold doesn’t deter energy generation across the state.
The Impact Of Snowfall On Solar Panels
Undoubtedly, the chilly weather means there will be snow and ice. But what impact does this have on your solar system? Generally, it’s not a significant concern as long as the solar panels are properly installed. That is, consider the angle and elevation of the solar panels for optimal performance during winter. Setting up your panels at an angle allows snow to slide off, thereby reducing buildup.
Heavy snowfall can quickly reduce the amount of energy generated by your solar panel system. Usually, snow tends to pile up on flat-mounted PV panels, particularly if they’re not tilted toward the sun. Fortunately, it’s not a major issue for people who live in regions with very little snowfall; most systems can handle the snow without significant loss in efficiency.
The panels also sport a reflective glass surface which helps to prevent snow buildup. This implies that, on sunny days, heat generated by the sun can help melt away some of the accumulated snow.
Ever heard of the albedo effect? No? Okay. It entails the reflective capacity of a surface. Darker surfaces are more prone to absorb sunlight, whereas lighter surfaces like snow reflect it. Hence, snow acts as a panel’s mirror-like reflector on cold days, channeling some sunlight to your panel and thereby increasing its performance.
Tips For Maximizing Solar Panel Performance During Winter
The installation of solar panels usually includes a large supporting frame. Unfortunately, this frame can impede your system from maximizing its potential. Snow and ice can pile up on the frames and prevent light from reaching the panels. To avoid this, consider a frameless installation with a sleek, aesthetically pleasing look.
You may also want to look into rechargeable solar batteries. This way, you can store energy when the solar panels are less efficient. It’s an effective means to overcome cloudy and snowy days. The backup may also come in handy during power outages during winter due to snow storms.
In short, you can expect your solar panels to keep producing energy even when the weather takes a turn for the worse. Even so, you need to make a few adjustments to get the most out of your solar panel system. And if you were on the fence, I hope this post has eased your mind. As such, you can confidently go solar, even if your area experiences harsh winters.
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Do Solar Panels Work During Winter?