Contrary to popular belief, solar panels are hard at work during the winter months. While they may not produce as much solar energy during winter as they do during summer, their level of solar production will be adequate for your home energy needs. Read below for a more detailed explanation of their productivity levels during the winter months.
Where You Live
The U.S. Department of Energy runs the Regional Test Center (RTC) Program for Solar Technologies. “The RTC sites are located in the major climate regions of the United States to develop standards and guidelines to validate the performance and operation of photovoltaic (PV) modules and systems under a variety of field conditions over time.” These PV systems, in other words, are solar panels.
Your solar panels’ level of productivity during winter will depend on where you live. For instance, the winter months in Southern California can be temperate and sunny, making for ideal conditions for solar production. The same goes for spring in the Northeast. That’s because solar panels do not generate as much electricity when it is hot out, a dynamic known as the power temperature coefficient.
If solar panels favor mild to warm conditions, what happens when we are talking about a properly cold winter in the Midwestern or Northeastern parts of the country, with lower temperatures and a fair amount of snow? If it snows enough in your area to cover your panels, your solar productivity can drop significantly. And if your solar panels are hard to reach (for instance, they are on your roof), you might be forced to leave the snow in place until it melts on its own.
But if it is cold and gray and your panels remain clear of snow, then your panels’ productivity won’t be affected as much. In fact, under mild winter conditions, solar panels can continue to produce at a solid clip because they aren’t taxed by heat. So, solar panels won’t produce as much energy during the winter months as they will during the summer months. However, solar panels can actually gain in efficiency under ideal (sunny, mild) winter conditions.
If you are producing solar energy during winter months, but at a lower rate than you do during spring or summer months, is there anything you can do about it? That’s where net metering comes into play. Net metering is a billing practice whereby you pay for only the net energy you use. For example, if you are able to produce enough electricity to cover your electricity usage, then you will be nothing to your power company. Being able to store up unused credits during peak production months will help ensure that you have enough energy to cover lower production months during winter.
In the winter months, community solar has distinct advantages. Because community solar panels are easily accessed, they are easy to clean off. Where community solar farms use adjustable solar panels, these panels track with the sun constantly reorient themselves to maximize solar input.