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snow on solar panels

Snow on Solar Panels: Will Solar Panels Work in the Winter?

It's natural to assume that because solar panels are used to generate electricity from sunlight, they only function in sunny regions, which leads people living in parts of the United States where snow falls during winter to believe that solar panels aren't worth investing in.

But the good news is that even if there is snow, it doesn't affect solar power generation too much.

Therefore, the question arises what effect does snow have on solar panels? Are they useless during the cold months? Below we answer those questions - and much more.

Does Solar Power System Produce Energy in Winter?

snow on solar panels

A short answer is Yes! They do. As long as sunlight falls on the solar panels, they will continue generating energy, no matter what temperature it is outside.

Cold weather makes PV solar panels work better than they would otherwise. Because, like all electrical devices, solar power works best when it’s cold out. If electronics get too hot, they cannot operate at their peak performance level.

Solar panel manufacturers rate their products based on how well they function at their highest temperatures, the maximum temperature, after which the efficiency of the photovoltaic cells decreases.

When the panel's temperature reaches its maximum operating temperature, usually about 77 degrees Fahrenheit, its ability to create electricity decreases.

During the colder months, solar panels tend to perform better because they're less likely to get too hot and reach their peak temperature.

However, we must point out that this increased efficiency is somewhat negated by the fact that there is less daylight during winter due to shorter days comparatively.

It balances out because its energy output during winter is not drastically different from summer.

Snow on Solar Panel: Can energy be generated, though?

No electricity will be generated if your panels are completely buried under a thick blanket of snow. However, the good news is that you can avoid this problem by letting gravity take care of everything and letting the snow fall off or waiting until after the snow melts. Another option would be to clean the snow yourself.

Snow doesn't usually pose any significant threat to solar panel systems because:

  • Snow slides off solar panels easily because they're usually mounted at an angle.
  • Dark solar cells absorb sun heat, making it easier to melt snow. Solar panels are designed so they can capture sunlight and trap its energy. Solar cells are usually 20 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than the ambient temperature. Even a small amount of light can warm up the solar panels enough to begin melting the ice that has formed on them.
  • Snow can help keep your solar panels clean! When it melts, it removes any dust or debris that accumulates on them.

On the whole, snow shouldn't significantly affect solar panels or their performance during the winter. It’s important to remember that if the snow doesn't slide off or melt for several days, your solar panel may not be able to generate energy at that time.

However, winter weather (snow and cold) generally will not pose a major problem for your solar energy system's generation capabilities.

Snow Guards: Consider Installing Them

snow on solar panels

Snow guards can prevent large quantities of snow from building up on your solar panels. If you live in a region that receives several feet of heavy snow each year, snow guards might be a smart investment for your driveway.

Solar panels are slippery, so they don't provide much traction for the snow accumulating. Snow can easily slide off the roof panels and land on people or landscaping below if no snow guard systems are installed.

Snow guards help to hold back snow so that it gradually melts instead of falling directly down.

Snow shouldn't cause solar panels to break down. Solar panel systems are designed to be durable and handle any weather, including snowfall.

Solar Panels in the Snow: Final Words

Even if you live in a place with regular winter weather, including heavy snowfall, don't be discouraged by that. Get solar power! Remember, solar panels are very common in some of the snowiest states.

New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey are among the top 10 states for solar panel installation in the United States.

Key Takeaways

  • Cold temperatures don't affect solar panel performance. They don't work if heavy snow covers them, but the snow usually slides off easily or disappears within a short period.
  • If you live somewhere where there is snow, don't let that stop you from installing solar panels. You may need to sweep off your panels with a brush and/or install snow guards on your solar power system.
  • Solar energy is becoming increasingly popular in states like New Jersey and Massachusetts that receive lots of snow because they have favorable laws and incentives for installing solar panels.

About the Author David Roberts

I'm a Mechanical Engineer who's obsessed with solar energy and sustainable living.

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