How Temperature Impacts Solar Farms.
When you think of the winter season, you probably think of gray skies and snow more often than you think of the sun. And you may have even heard a common myth that solar panels do not generate solar power when freezing temperatures are regularly part of your local forecast. It’s a fact that solar cells need sunlight to produce solar energy, and during summer, solar panel production can be substantial. But in winter months, with shorter daylight hours and cloudier skies, can you count on solar panels to produce solar energy?
The simple answer is yes. But did you know that the cold temperatures can actually help solar production? Let’s take a closer look at how solar panels work during wintertime.
Solar Cells Like the Cold Weather
Solar cells, also referred to as photovoltaic or PV cells, convert sunlight directly into electricity. PV derives its name from the actual process of light conversion from photons to electrical voltage. Because solar cells convert sunlight (rather than the sun’s heat) into electricity, cold winter temperatures do not impact production.
Colder temperatures can actually help improve the output of solar cells. Compare the performance of solar panels to a person exercising. Imagine what it would feel like to run eight miles on hot pavement in 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Most likely, you would be hot, sweaty, and dehydrated. Now imagine running those same miles on cooler pavement with a nice breeze in 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Your run would be more pleasant due to the cooler weather, thus more efficient. The same thing happens when solar panels are performing on a hot, sunny day versus a cold, sunny day. If the temperature is too hot, it can hurt the performance of the solar cells and reduce the output of a PV solar panel system. The colder temperatures combined with the sun are actually ideal for solar panel performance. The cold weather actually increases module efficiency, converting sunlight to energy better as it gets colder.
Solar Panels and Snow
Similarly, white snow can have a positive impact on solar production. The ground snow itself can reflect sunlight on top of the solar panels and often helps improve solar PV performance.
Of course, snow-covered panels can hurt solar cell production. If your home’s rooftop solar panels are completely covered in snow drifts, they won’t produce energy. You must clear off solar panels so they are free from obstruction. This can be tricky and a hassle with rooftop solar panels. To avoid damaging your panels while cleaning them, you should not rake or scrape the snow off of the panels. Instead, hose the snow off or wait until the sun melts it, allowing it to slide off of the panels and your roof. The safest method is to hire someone to clean the snow. A crew can secure safety ropes and perform other safety measures while on top of your roof.
Conversely, a benefit of NRG Community Solar is that rooftop panel installation, and any associated panel maintenance, is removed from the equation. With our Community Solar program, dedicated teams of trained local professionals manage the upkeep of the panels year round, at no additional cost. This work brings jobs into the communities and helps the local economy. The dangers and difficulty of climbing on your roof, and expense of hiring a crew, is something you don’t have to worry about when you enroll in the program.
Additionally, NRG Community Solar utilizes industrial-grade panels that are fully rated and tested to operate in the climatic conditions they are used. Industrial-grade solar panels are designed to handle extreme weather conditions and can bear a certain amount of weight. For instance, snowfall should not damage solar panels because they are tested to withstand freezing temperatures and heavy amounts of snow.
Beyond the weight of snow, our panels are tested for freezing temperatures as well. When the temperature drops below freezing, any water that has accumulated on solar panels can freeze. When that happens, the frozen water expands and could potentially cause cracks in the solar cells. It’s possible for panels to fracture due to shifting hot/cold temperatures, which can crack solar cells, disturb the soldered joints, and damage the inner components over the course of time. Imagine if you had a crack in one of your rooftop panels after the upfront investment you made! With NRG Community Solar, smart equipment choices are made to ensure that any modules, inverters, and racking used are well-suited to the environment, with projects designed around their specific location and climate conditions. Just as your home’s energy use varies with the season, so can solar production. When there is less sunlight, there will be less solar energy generated. However, the cold temperatures can provide a boost, and you can still ensure that there will be output. Most importantly, with a community solar option, your winter to do list is simplified. Climb on top of the roof safely to hang those holiday lights, and leave solar panel maintenance up to our community solar teams.