Solar panel performance depends on a wide range of factors such as the quality and size of the units, the panels’ orientation, and arguably the most important, the season. In general, they produce 40-60% less energy in the winter months than the summer months when the days are longer and the sun is higher in the sky.
The reduced solar panel performance is caused by the shorter daylights, thicker clouds, and heavy snow. The colder weather, meanwhile, does not affect the electricity output.
Even in below-freezing temperatures, solar panels can still generate electricity provided that there is sunlight. Contrary to popular belief, they need light from the sun and not its heat.
Peak Months for Solar Panels
In California, where the summer dry season normally runs between May and October, solar energy production is at its highest peak because of clear skies and longer daylight hours.
On the other hand, its performance can dip during winter due to the snow and during the rainy season in which the density of the cloud cover means the panels receive diffuse light rather than direct sunlight.
But even with diffuse light, which is caused by particles in the atmosphere, solar panels can still generate energy, although not as high as during summer months with clear blue sky.
Ways to Improve Solar Panel Performance
With the correct installation and orientation, the use of solar panels remains cost-effective even in regions with long winter months. High-quality units combined with adjunct technologies further ensure high energy output despite “challenging” weather conditions.
Choose High-Quality Solar Panels
According to Clean Energy Reviews, high-quality solar panels like LG, Panasonic, and SunPower produce more energy and last longer than their competitors, making their higher upfront cost worthwhile. (Note: They are generally 20-30 more expensive than low- and mid-quality solar panels.)
Hire a Reputable Installer
Professional solar panel installers know the detrimental effects of shade on the unit’s performance. For this reason, they will examine the roof and the surrounding building and trees before doing the installation.
To further promote high energy efficiency, they install the panels at the correct orientation and angle. The general rule of thumb is that these should sit at an 18-36 degrees angle to get the maximum sunlight exposure.
In terms of the correct orientation, it all depends on whether you live in the northern or southern hemisphere. In California (and the rest of the country), the solar panels should be facing the south for maximum sunlight exposure.
Countries in the southern hemisphere, meanwhile, should have their solar panels facing north.
Keep Your Solar Panel Clean
While solar panels are designed to withstand heavy snow and inclement weather, thick dust, grime, dried leaves, and other debris can reduce their efficiency. For this reason, they may need occasional cleaning, although it all depends on several factors such as the amount of rain and the level of pollution in your area.
However, you may not need a yearly cleaning if your region receives frequent rain that can wash out dirt and debris.
Even in regions with cold or inclement weather, solar power remains far more cost-effective than traditional energy sources such as coal and natural gas. In fact, a report released by the World Economic Forum shows that it is a “cheaper” alternative to fossil fuels in the long run.
To learn more about this clean energy source, contact Yorkshire Roofing at (800) 794-7444. They are a licensed and insured contractor that installs roof and solar panels in Northern California.