Do Solar Panels Work in the Winter?
One of the most common questions we get here at Solar Us, is "do solar panels work in the winter?" Or "do solar lights work in the winter?" We touch on this a little on our Solar Power FAQ page, but since we offer so many products relating to these topics, we thought it would be a great idea to do a special piece on the effects of winter on solar power. In this piece, you should leave with the ultimate knowledge on how winter can affect solar panels and solar energy in general. In order to better outline this we are going to separate this out by utility scale solar, residential solar panels, and home solar lighting.
Does Winter affect Utility Scale Solar Farms?
When we say utility scale solar power, we are referring to solar farms generally in ther > 5 MegaWatt size. These are large installations that provide power to the electric grid as a whole. It's important to realize temperature doesn't directly play a major factor in a solar panel's power output. That being said, solar panels actually work more efficiently in cold temperatures, but a key point is to know efficiency and power output are two completely different things. Solar panels absord more of the sun's energy at lower temperatures, therefor they operate more efficiently in the winter. However, during the winter the sun produces less energy, so solar panels don't have near as much potential energy they can absorb. The main driver for solar power output is the amount of particles of light, called photons, which is more prevalent during the summer months. Because there is so much less energy available from the sun in the winter months, panels can produce around 50% less energy in the winter months. If you aren't completely follwoing, just know solar power equals more efficient but with less energy production in the winter time.
Though solar farms may take a bit of a dip during colder months, they still can produce a good amount of energy. In relation to the electric grid, the load (demand for power) is actually quite a bit lower in the winter as well. Summer time loads are much higher, mostly due to the power needed for air conditioning. So solar panels produce less energy in the winter, but some of this is canceled out due to the demand for power being much less. Loads also typically peak in the middle of the day, so this is another reason why solar energy can be useful for our electric grid. Solar arrays need the sun to produce their optimum power, so this often aligns with peak load.
Do Residential Solar Panels Work in the Winter?
In most cases, residential solar arrays are the exact same as the arrays in a utility scale solar project, so everything we mentioned in the previous section applies here as well. Solar Panels are more efficent in the winter, but they don't produce as much energy. One key difference, however, are residential panels affect your home or whatever you are trying to power and not the electric grid at all. The load for your home doesn't haven't quite as much variance as the actual electric grid, so there are many options for having a home solar kit supply your power needs during the cold or winter months.
The best option is to figure out how much energy you'll need, and then find out how many extra panels it would take to supply this power in the winter. The extra panels will help you achieve what you need in the winter, and then in the summer you can use batteries to store the excess energy in the summer. You'll need plenty of power for the summer as well with your air conditioning operating. Winter can also mean snow, so this is another factor you want to take into consideration. Snow piles or drifts collected on your panels would block the sun's energy, so it is important to remove snow buildup from your system in order to get any energy.
Do solar powered lights work in the cold?
When we say solar powered lights, we are referring to outdoor solar light setups also referred to as solar outdoor garden lights, solar string lights, solar security lights, solar fence post lights, solar patio lights, solar flag pole lights, solar landscape lights, and solar deck lights. These are much smaller systems and unlike a solar array system, typically only produce power (to produce light) at their individual source or location. You can not power your home with solar lights. Solar lighting systems are great ways to save on overall electricity costs, and are super convienent due to not needing cords or cables connecting to the electric grid. Their individal solar panel is essentially their electric grid.
Everything we have mentioned previously about winter's affect on solar panels and solar farms can be applied here. However, the important factor here is selecting lights that will last longer on a battery charge from their solar panel's day of energy absorption. During the winter months, the sun doesn't stay out as long as it does in the summer, so you want to find lights that have better battiers if you are wanting your lights to work from dusk til dawn. In most cases and at today's current technology, home solar lights will likely not make it through an entire night during the winter. Most solar lights absorb enough solar energy to last for around 8 -12 hours, but it is typically on the lower end of that spectrum during the cold months. Still, 8 hours is a pretty solid amount of time for a light that doesn't cost anything to run. Like solar panel generators, you can get the most out of your solar outdoor lights by making sure there is nothing built up on or blocking the light's panel. Dust buildup can also negatively affect output, so it is wise to wipe down your light occasionally with a damp rag or cleaning cloth. Additionally, you can get optimal light by making sure there is nothing shading the solar light's panel such as trees or buildings.
Final Consensus on the Affects of Cold and Winter on Solar Power Systems
In conclusion, yes, your solar systems will likely take a hit on energy output during the winter. However, you will more than likely still get enough output to power all or most of your needs, and solar energy doesn't completely go into hibernation when Old Man Winter comes knocking. We still believe solar power is a smart investment irregardless of winter's effect, and this should not be a deterrent keeping you from considering solar. We hope you found this article interesting and informative. If you have any other questions relating to solar panels in the winter, feel free to shoot us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, for the best selection of premium solar lights and solar generator kits, we hope you look to Solar Us Shop!