January 12, 2015

Snowy Solar: Do Solar Panels Work in Snowy Climates?

Surprise, the weather forecast may be calling for snow sometime very soon. And with snow, comes storms bringing the possibility of power outages. Last winter’s polar vortex caused widespread power outages which highlighted the advantages of solar energy but also raised the question: Do solar panels work in snowy climates?

Winter isn’t automatically a bad thing. In order to make solar power work, you need panels that absorb the heat and light from the sun. On clear winter days, the snow can increase the albedo effect, in which sunlight is reflected off the bright white snowy ground surrounding the panels. This reflective power has a positive effect on the performance of panels and sometimes the energy output can even be greater than in the summertime.

Shorter, But Colder Days Ahead …

A downside of winter is that there are fewer hours of daylight, so there are fewer hours of solar production. But, because cold materials are good conductors of electricity, all electronics work best in the cold. It’s no surprise that photovoltaic solar panels work well in light, cold environments, too!

And then there’s the occasional snowstorm … They can still work under a light snowfall, but after snow completely blocks out sunshine, they may stop generating power. This can happen after more than a couple of inches of snowfall. Though, since solar panels have a slippery surface and sit at an angle, it’s easy to let the warm sun and gravity slide the snow right off.

Even if there are days when your panels are covered with snow and not generating its usual power output, it’s important to remember that your total energy generation is calculated over a year’s time so lower solar energy output over snowy wintery days – can be made up at other times throughout the year.

The Sun is Everywhere

According to according to the report, Lighting the Way: The Top Ten States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2013, the top 10 states with the most solar electricity installed per capita account for only 26 percent of the U.S. population but 87 percent of the nation’s total installed solar electricity capacity. And while some of the top solar states are also the sunniest, research has shown that cold-weather states are indeed among the leaders. These top 10 states include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and North Carolina. Others close to the top include New York, Vermont and Georgia.

Want to know more about going solar? Give us a shout!

KMB Design Group is at the forefront of the escalating solar industry, and is considered a leading consulting firm in the renewable energy field providing photovoltaic design and engineering services. Our Solar engineers will give you full analysis and let you know how much energy can be drawn with considerations such as location, obstructions and orientations. We will also provide you with the best designs that will give you maximum output. Licensed in 49 states, we have the ability to work nationally without limitations.