Effect On The Performance Of The Solar Panels in Cold Climate

Weather conditions, including the temperature in which the solar panels are operating, have a considerable effect on the performance of the solar panels. It might sound counter-intuitive to many of us, but low temperature actually boosts the performance of the solar panels. Solar panels, like any other electronic device, are more productive at low temperatures. As the ambient temperature increases, the efficiency of the panels drops down.

To put it in simple words, as long as the sky is clear, a given set of solar panels will be more efficient in colder weather.

A. Do Solar Panels Work In The Winter? Do They Produce Power?

Can Solar Panels Produce Power In the Winter?

As we have discussed earlier, solar panels are not only functional but they function even better as long as the sky is clear and the sun is available.

In winter, since the sun rays come at a low angle, the amount of solar radiation is limited which leads to lesser power generation. Also, in winters if the sky is cloudy, solar panels will generate less amount of energy. Many types of research show that except for the extremely cloudy days, solar panels generate a substantial amount of energy even in winters.

B.  What Happens To Solar Panels Performance In Snow?

Snowfall certainly affects the performance of the solar panel. In some cases positively and in some cases negatively.

It is quite interesting to note that if the weather is windy during the snowfall, snowfall helps power generation. When snowflakes are present in the atmosphere, they reflect the light and help the scattering of light and hence photons on the panels. The wind ensures that the snowflakes falling on the panels are cleared off. So, as long as they are not deposited on the panels, snowflakes will actually aid the solar power generation.

When snowfall is little to moderate, two factors come in the picture which allows  panels to function satisfactorily. The first factor is the wind. The second factor is sunlight. Moderate depositions on the panels melt away as soon as the panels are exposed to sunlight. Once the snowflakes melt away, the panels function properly.

Solar Panel Performance In Snow

Another advantage of little or moderate snowfall is, any dust particles, which are present on the panels, will get carried away along with the molten snowflakes. This will clean the panel surface and increase the panel performance.

When the snowfall is heavy, the panels are completely under the now. Under such circumstances, their performance can either completely stop or can be at a minimum level depending on the availability of the sunlight.

Such heavy snowfall will also lead to added weight on the panels. If the mounting structures are not strong enough, they might collapse under this increased weight.

C.  Operation And Maintenance Tips For Solar Panels In Cold Climates?

Here are some tips which help ensure a better performance of PV panels during snow:

  1.  Panel Angle: The places where snowfall is heavy, raising the panels by increasing angle of mounting will ensure that the snowflakes slide off the panels. Once the snowflakes are off the panels, the panels will function to their full capacity.

Cleaning Solar Panels With a Broom

 2.  Cleaning Panels With a Broom Or a Rake: If the snowfall is very heavy, the snow will completely cover the modules. Once this happens, the panel performance will go down. In such cases, the snow can be shoveled off the panels with the help of a broom or a rake. One must take absolute precautions not to damage oneself or the panels while cleaning the panels. If the snowfall is too heavy, cleaning is also essential from the safety of the mounting structures.

It is debatable whether cleaning panels is a viable option. In many parts of the world, during heavy snowfall, sunlight is not available for days or if available, then only for a short window of a couple of hours. At such places, it is recommended to keep the panels as they are i.e. under the snow as cleaning them would anyway not lead to any energy generation from them and cleaning might impose a risk to the personnel as well as the panels.

To summarize, little or moderate snowfall will have no adverse effect on the panels or panel performance. Heavy snowfall certainly affects the panel performance. In such cases, cleaning panels with a broom or a roof rake could help panels start generating electricity.