The long days of summer are already waning and homeowners who have installed photovoltaic solar panels may wonder what the cooler seasons will mean for their systems. Fortunately, the effects of winter on solar power are not as dramatic as many people believe. Here is what winter means in terms of solar power.
Shorter Days, Longer Nights
While it’s true that solar panels can only generate electricity during daylight hours, that doesn’t mean you’ll be left in the dark, because newer systems have options to share or store energy for later use.
Panels can share or store energy in two different ways. If the system is connected to the utility grid, excess energy that the panels produce during the day is sent into the grid for others to use, and you receive credits for this energy sharing. At night, your home will draw electricity from the grid, but because you fed the grid earlier, you won’t have to pay as much for it, and may not have to pay anything.
A second option is to store the excess energy your system produces during the day in batteries, and then run your home from them when sunlight is unavailable. New battery technology makes this an affordable option that doesn’t take up much room in the home.
Your active intervention isn’t required for either of these options. They happen automatically and seamlessly. Talk with a solar professional about which approach is right for you.
Temperatures and Solar Power
Temperature has little to no effect on how much light energy solar panels can absorb or how much electrical energy they produce. Even on a sub-zero day, your solar panels will continue to work effectively, as long as there is light to absorb. In fact, winter can be conducive to creating more electricity due to the reflective quality of snow and ice.
Clouds and Solar
It’s a common and understandable belief that solar panels need bright sunlight to effectively absorb energy. However, clouds don’t necessarily make solar panels useless. They still absorb indirect sunlight and produce electricity, even when clouds are present. Solar energy installation specialists know how to orient solar panels to capture the most energy possible for any location.
The Impact of Snow on Solar
The dark surface and warmth of solar panels tend to be natural deterrents to snow cover, and most snow and ice will quickly melt by itself. If you do find that a large drift of snow has covered one or more of your panels, it’s easy to remove it with a special long-handled broom made for the purpose. You’ll also find service providers willing to clear snow and ice from panels for a reasonable fee.
Just because summer is coming to an end does not mean solar panels will become less effective. In fact, now is a great time to install solar panels, to reduce your home’s energy consumption this winter. For installation and service in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, contact TerraSol Energies.