Can Solar Panels Work during the winter?

Solar Modules in Winter - Solar Panel Street LightsIn the USA, the Sun Belt is usually regarded as the best possible area to install solar panels, and anything powered by solar panels. However, as we wrote recently, solar panels are still effective outside the Sun Belt. However, we all know that they need the sun in order to function. So, how do solar panels cope with winter weather, including less sun, shorter days and especially snow?

There is a misconception that solar panels are only useful in the summer. This is, of course, wrong, as they produce electricity as long as there is the sun, regardless of the temperature. This is true for all devices using panels, from large, home-powering panels to solar panel street lights and everything in between.

Light snow

In the conditions of light snow, the effect on the electrical output of the panels should be minimal. Small amounts of snow can slide off fairly easily from their smooth surface. Once again, contrary to popular belief, it is not the warmth, but the light itself that powers the photovoltaic panels. And while heavier snow might block sunlight, a surprising amount of light can actually go through the light powder. That means that even fully covered panels still produce some electricity, provided the layer of snow is a thin one.

Heavy snow

Heavy snowfall can have a more detrimental effect on the solar panels and electricity production. Simply put, snow is heavy. If a lot of it falls on a panel, the sheer weight of it can damage the panel and cause malfunctions. This is especially true if the panel is mounted on frames. These frames actually enable accumulation of snow. On fixtures which do not include frames, snow usually slides off without much problem, so it never accumulates and has no more effect on the panels than light snow does.

Unexpected benefits of snow

In fact, snow can actually help solar panels. If you think to your windshield in a snowstorm, once the snow is removed, your windshield is left squeaky clean. This is because any dirt can much more easily bond to snow than to the smooth surface of the glass. The exact same thing happens with solar panels. Once the snow melts or falls off the panel, it leaves it very clean. And cleaner panels can absorb more sunlight.

Cloudy days

People who believe that solar panels only work on sunny days are mistaken. Even though they do work better on cloudless days, solar panels are active in all kinds of weather, including cloudy. Since the amount of light available is significantly lower, the amount of electricity produced on cloudy days is reduced as well, usually reaching only about a quarter of the maximum expected amount. That, however, doesn’t mean that solar panels are useless, far from it.

Per-annum sun

A more rational approach to solar power is how much sun you can expect over the course of the year, not over the course of a gray winter day. Regions which experience harsh winters can have a good amount of sun through the year, which makes them good candidates for solar power.

Solar power street lights

Solar power street lights operate on the same principle as the larger solar panel fixtures. The only difference is that the batteries inside solar street lights can hold the collected energy for a few days if the weather is extremely bad and collection is hindered. So solar power street lights can work quite well with the limited amount of light they collect in winter.

Greenshine offers a wide variety of solar lights for a wide variety of applications. The company’s experienced engineers can help you realize your vision at the most competitive prices and superior quality. Contact today to learn more.