Solar Panel Efficiency During Colorado Winter
Solar energy technology has made mind-blowing strides in the last decade or so, and we’re starting to see widespread adoption of solar panels in the United States, from residential homes to corporate America and beyond.
Recently, Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida opened a 270-acre solar panel farm that will now power two entire theme parks on its own. It will also power a quarter of the entire resort property (which is itself twice the size of Manhattan).
“But that’s Florida,” you think. “It’s literally the Sunshine State. What about those of us living in colder climates, like Denver?”
Believe it or not, solar panels don’t need warm weather to thrive.
This has actually been one of the biggest obstacles in getting solar panels adopted around the world, experts say. Because of the word “solar,” people simply assume that solar panels can only operate in a state of constant summer. But that’s a myth. In fact, just the opposite is true.
Solar Panels Actually Perform Better in Winter Weather
Solar panels are powered by light, not heat. So whether the weather calls for swim trunks or snowsuits, your solar panels will be A-OK.
“But isn’t there less sunlight in the winter months?” Consider the following:
- Solar panels don’t deplete their energy the second that sunlight hits them. Rather, they store up energy. So you’re still benefitting from last month’s sunshine today. Lower production during darker times of the year is offset by the sun power stored up during the summer.
- UV rays pass through clouds, so even on an overcast afternoon, your solar panels are still harvesting energy. It’s the same reason you can get a sunburn on a cloudy day at the beach! While very dense clouds can reduce your solar panels’ efficiency, they won’t render the panels useless.
- Solar panels are designed to attract sunlight, so even on a dimmer day, they can catch more than you might think.
- Like most other electronic devices, solar panels actually perform their very best in colder weather. (That’s because the electrons in your panels produce energy as they get excited by sunlight’s photons. When the electrons rest at a lower temperature, they produce even more energy as they begin to “wake up.”) So even if your panels get less light during the winter, you’ll get more power out of them when it’s cold outside.
Do Solar Panels Work in Snow?
It is true that massive accumulations of snowfall can diminish the amount of energy you get from your solar panels. But even with solar panels in Denver, Colorado — no stranger to Jack Frost — snow is not as big a problem as you might think. Here’s why:
- Solar panels are designed with snow in mind. They’re angled in such a way that most snow will simply slide right off. And their surface is designed to heat up (remember: their whole reason for existence is to harvest the SUN). Snow melts off fairly effectively.
- The panels are also designed to withstand the weight and pressure of heavy snowfall. Different units are designed with different maximum pressure capacities, and the units are rated accordingly. If you’re installing solar panels in Denver, make sure your units are rated to withstand Colorado’s average annual snowfall.
- Even if your solar panels end up caked in snow with no sign of melting in sight, you can quickly and safely clear the surface by using a simple “solar panel snow rake,” an easy tool designed with this very predicament in mind!
A Look Around the World: Solar Panels in Colder Cities & Countries
We have our fair share of solar panels in Denver, which is already pretty compelling evidence that they work well in colder weather.
Millions of Colorado homeowners and businesses have installed solar panels on their roofs, and they didn’t do it for aesthetic appeal alone (though the panels do look pretty cool).
No, they did it because solar panels are effective at reducing energy costs. As a bonus, they’re good for the environment too.
We aren’t alone here in the Centennial State. In fact, three of the top 10 cities with the highest rate of solar adoption are in colder-weather climates. Denver is one of them! (The other two are New York — which takes the top spot — and Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Boston, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Detroit, the District of Columbia, St. Louis, Chicago, Columbus, Anchorage, and Seattle are all in the Top 25.)
Moreover, in those cities, winter is the most common time of year for new solar panel installations.
For that matter, Germany — a country that sees a lot less sunlight than Colorado does on average — is the world’s #1 adopter of solar panels. Solar energy provides 7% of the country’s total energy, and it sometimes single-handedly meets a whopping 50% of midday energy demands in German cities.
Schedule a Colorado Home Energy Audit in Denver or Fort Collins
Could solar panels work well during the winter months at your house? We encourage you to contact our office and schedule a home energy audit.
We’ll send a certified building performance analyst to evaluate your home and determine what kind of performance and energy savings you might get out of solar panels.
REenergizeCO is a Colorado-based home energy efficiency company that helps homeowners increase their comfort, decrease their energy bills, and prolong the life of their home.
Our team has conducted countless home energy audits across Colorado. The process is quick and easy, and it can tell you a lot about your home’s ongoing energy expenditure — all with a view toward increasing your quality of life and decreasing your monthly expenses. We can also help you understand your options for easy and affordable installation of solar panels in Denver.