How Solar Panels Work During the Winter

General By nelnetAdmin November 1, 2022

Community solar is an excellent way for homeowners, renters, and business owners in any climate – and at any time of year – to reduce greenhouse gases and pollution while creating cost savings.

You might expect solar panels to perform best on hot, sunny days, but you would only be half right. Let’s look at how solar panels work – and why community solar is a great energy solution wherever you live.

How Do Solar Panels Perform in Cold Temperatures?

Solar panels need sunlight, not heat, to be at their most efficient. The photovoltaic (PV) technology in solar panels works more efficiently in colder temperatures converting sunlight to power.1 As it turns out, this greater efficiency helps counteract issues – such as fewer daylight hours – that may accompany colder temperatures and reduce productivity during colder months.

How Do Solar Panels Perform in Snow?

Light snow that temporarily covers solar panels and then blows or slides off has minimal impact on efficiency. Heavy amounts of snow, however, can block sunlight from reaching the panels, thus preventing them from producing energy. Fortunately, this isn’t a common occurrence.

There are several reasons the build-up of heavy snow on panels is unlikely except in the harshest weather or climates. Panels absorb heat and light from the sun, and they’re mounted at an angle and facing the sun to optimize exposure to UV rays, which also keeps snow from accumulating. In wintry climates, frameless solar panels are found to be more effective in helping snow to slide more easily off panels to make accumulation less likely.2

Furthermore, snow can help solar panel efficiency in a couple of ways. It can have a cleansing effect on the panels, helping them achieve greater efficiency. In addition, snow reflects additional sunlight onto solar panels, increasing the energy they can generate.

Research: Solar Panels & Climate

The Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative funds regional test centers, where researchers test solar panel performance in widely varying environments. They’ve proven that solar can successfully generate electricity in cold, snowy climates.

SunShot is discovering other ways to help PV panels withstand winter elements through support of the DuraMat Consortium, led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. These researchers study how different materials used in packaging and mounting PV components work in different climates, leading to development of more reliable and affordable products.2

How Do Solar Panels Perform with Shorter Days?

Extra energy generated by your panels during sunny hours is used to offset energy you use at night and other times when the system isn’t as efficient. During winter’s shortened daylight hours, there’s a reduced amount of time a solar panel works at full efficiency, but in most areas, there’s still enough daylight to make solar panels worthwhile.3

Community Solar Works for Every Season and Climate

When you participate in community solar, there’s no upfront costs or installation of panels – since solar panels, or arrays, are located at your solar project. These arrays produce energy that helps to reduce fossil fuel energy usage all year round. By participating in community solar, you reduce pollution and greenhouse gases – plus, you save money on annual energy costs.4

It’s always the season: sign up for community solar today.

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