Do Solar Panels Work in Winter?

Solar panels are made for the sun, however, solar panels perform well nationwide, even in cold, and rainy climates, where solar power is seen as a reliable and resilient energy source. This is because solar panels generate electricity from the suns light, not its heat.  Solar panels even generate electricity more efficiently in cold weather.  A solar installation generates environmentally friendly, renewable energy year-round, even in the fall and winter months. 

How Well Do Solar Panels Work in the Winter?  

During the summertime, solar can power your entire facility. But what will happen when the days get shorter and temperatures drop? Do solar panels still function in the winter?   

The answer is yes, solar panels functioning during the winter. Converting sunlight to electricity actually works better in colder temperatures, meaning solar panels often improve their efficiency in winter. Most businesses will see some reduction in total power generation due to fewer daylight hours or excess cloud cover, but increased efficiency helps minimize this. 

Besides the cold, there are other worthwhile questions about solar panels in the winter. What happens when it snows? Will I get enough production? Some companies in northern climates may wonder about solar panel performance during snowy conditions. Still, it’s not as big a concern as some might think. Truth is that: even when covered with snow, they can still generate electricity.  

While snow may reduce sunlight penetration, it doesn’t necessarily prevent solar panels from working. Sunlight can still navigate through snow and reach your panels to produce more electricity than anticipated. Sunlight still reaches solar panels through snow and keeps solar cells producing and the dark glass of solar panels accelerates the snow’s ability to melt and slide off before it hinders performance.  With carport canopies tilted, snow is kept from piling up, often requiring snow management countermeasures to be installed.   Additionally, a light dusting of snow is likely to blow away or disappear quickly. 

On cold, clear days when there’s a brilliant carpet of snow, the smooth white surface of snow reflects light, like a mirror back onto solar panels. This albedo effect of snow allows panels to generate even more electricity in the cold.  

Pros and Cons of Solar Panels in the Winter  

Power generation of solar panels decreases in winter months yet, the cons are primarily due to infrequent heavy snows and shorter days. Meanwhile, solar panel efficiency and energy production potential are typically enhanced by cold temperatures.  

Here are a couple of advantages and disadvantages to help explain solar panel behavior in cold weather. 

Pros Cons 
Solar panels generate electricity from the sun’s light rather than the sun’s heat. The amount of electricity generated during winter is less dependent than summer, potentially increasing grid energy use. 
Cold temperatures improve energy production efficiency, increasing the daily amount of electricity produced despite less daylight hours. It’s important to install additional durable solar panels rated to handle the weight loads from heavy snow, which could increase cost. 
Sunlight can still navigate to the solar panels through lighter snow cover and maintain power generation. You may need to clear heavy snow if it fully covers the panels and blocks the transmission of all sunlight. 
Solar panels are installed at an angle that allows most snow to slide off and let the sunshine in, boosting your peace of mind. Shorter winter days, snow cover, clouds and a lower slope of the sun all reduce the amount of sunlight solar panels can harvest. 
Many cities and states in northern regions with cold climates are instituting highly favorable incentives to install solar power.  

Sunlight is our most ample renewable resource. Solar is the most effective way to generate renewable energy in northern regions during the winter—and across the country all year round. Minor issues like snow blockage and cloudy skies don’t count significantly over the long-term. The time for solar is now.   

You’ll have a jump on the solar power market and be ready for the long days of summer—when you’re thinking more about keeping cool than staying warm. When you want to talk about solar for your business, the Kern Solar Structures.

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