How Do Solar Panels Work in Bad Weather?

Would you invest in a product or system if you’re unsure whether it’ll still serve you when the weather goes bad? Probably not. Perhaps you’re on the fence as your area often experiences uncooperative weather, such as heavy rain, hail, or snow, and want to know if solar panels will still work.

Great news – they do! If you’re lucky to live in Florida, partner with West Bay Energy for quality installations backed by reliable long-term warranties and a 100% production guarantee. But even if you’re subjected to the northern climate, you have no cause for alarm. Well then, how exactly do solar panels keep doing their thing in unfavorable weather? Read on for all the details.

How the Magic Happens

Solar panels comprise photovoltaic cells, which transform sunlight into electricity regardless of temperature or weather conditions. Even on cloudy days, solar panels produce electricity due to indirect sunlight.

I hope we all have our science hats on. Okey-dokey, light needs to hit a semiconductor material for an electrical current to be created. This releases electrons that form an electric field, ready for use. That’s how your panel works.

When it’s cooler, sunlight (high energy) activates resting electrons, resulting in a greater energy level. This then increases the solar cells’ efficiency, maximizing electricity production.

Conversely, during hot weather, solar panels face an uphill battle. As the temperature increases, photovoltaic cells slow down due to heat build-up, resulting in decreased performance.

Basically, solar panels rely on sunlight – not HEAT. Provided sunlight reaches the panel, its cells can generate power. However, severe weather, such as heavy snow, can diminish production. Snow and ice can also pose a physical barrier, inhibiting sunlight from hitting the photovoltaic cells directly.

You can use a solar panel racking system specifically designed for areas prone to heavy snowfall to work around the problem. This minimizes physical obstacles posed by winter weather and ensures minimal performance losses. That said, even during snowy weather, your panels can still generate power (details below).

Effect of Rain on Solar Production

Sunlight is diffused on a rainy or cloudy day, and its energy is divided between many photons. It follows that the energy of each photon is lower, reducing the amount of electricity generated – as the panels only receive indirect light. Still with me? No? Okay.

Picture direct light hitting your panels on a clear sunny day. The sun’s rays are powerful and concentrated since they travel straight through the atmosphere and onto your panels. When it’s raining, the light is scattered in all directions – it has to travel through clouds and raindrops. Now think of the same rays being spread out on a cloudy day. The energy is less intense, and the panel’s performance takes a hit.

Depending on how dense the cloud cover is, you can expect a decrease in performance. Efficiency also depends on the type of clouds your area frequently experiences. Here’s how it works:

  • High clouds – when the sun hits these clouds, less light is reflected, meaning your panels still receive some direct sunlight. Plus, high clouds retain more heat, which reflects on the panels, resulting in better performance.
  • Low clouds – these are usually thicker, blocking out and reflecting direct sunlight. This reduces the performance of solar panels.

That being said, rain clears away the dirt on panels, allowing them to work at optimal levels in the process. Thus, although you might think your system’s capacity is affected by rain, it still performs better than expected.

What About Snowy Weather?

Will your solar panels work when it snows? Yes. Granted, cooler temperature is ideal for solar production. But it’s difficult to imagine that a snow-covered panel can still produce power, right?

Well, solar panels typically sport a dark, reflective glass surface. As snow hits the glass, absorbed light causes it to melt, allowing the panel to continue receiving sunlight and generate electricity.

As we also pointed out, an installation rack with a tilted design prevents snow build-up – to some extent. Likewise, snow on the ground acts as a reflective material, directing sunlight onto panels, and allowing them to generate electricity.

Nonetheless, wintry weather affects solar power production as we generally have shorter days. Therefore, there’s less sunlight available for solar panels to convert. Fortunately, with the right design and complementary equipment (such as an efficient battery system), you can benefit from solar energy during winter.

Whether you’re an eco-warrior or a budget-conscious homeowner, you can spring for solar energy and enjoy the associated perks. Plus, it doesn’t matter whether you live in Massachusetts, where heavy snowfall is frequent, or sunny California. Should you decide to go solar, partner with a reputable installer who can walk you through the process and support you after your system goes live.

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