Astrum Solar Blog

How Snow Affects Solar Panel Performance

By: Austin Brentley   |  1/13/15

How Snow Affects Solar Panel PerformanceThe basic mechanics behind solar photovoltaic (PV) technology are simple. Your panels capture direct sunlight and convert this free energy into clean electricity for your home or business.

But what happens during the winter when it’s cloudy, cold, and snowing?

Let’s take a look.

1. Winter Clouds and Solar Panel Performance

Don’t be too concerned about cloud cover. During overcast days, the total output from your panels dips a bit. But your solar installation can still generate plenty of clean electricity. Read this article to learn more.

2. Cold Temperatures and Solar Panel Performance

Freezing temperatures are even less of a concern for 2 reasons:

  • Modern PV panels are incredibly durable and can withstand even the harshest elements.
  • Solar panel output is inversely proportional to temperature. The colder it gets, the more clean electricity your installation produces (it’s true).

3. Snow Cover and Solar Panel Performance

Snow cover can be a serious problem since it blocks out sunlight, making it harder for your panels to generate clean electricity.

So what should you do?

Fortunately, you have several different options:

  • Prevention. The best defense is prevention. There exists any number of technologies that can help you keep snow from accumulating in the first place.
  • Manual Cleaning. You can manually clear away snow from your panels. There are special tools designed for this very purpose.  And you can also create your own makeshift solutions using "soft" cloths wrapped around rakes.
  • Automated Cleaning. If you live in a particularly snowy climate, you might invest in solutions that use stored solar heat to melt snow away.

All of the above options require an initial upfront investment. But there exists a low-tech solution that doesn’t cost any money at all.

We call it the “no worry solution.” Let’s see how this works.

Modern black (or blue) PV panels do an excellent job of absorbing heat. So excessive accumulation is actually quite rare. But when snow does gather in large quantities, you can just ignore it. The energy output on that day won’t be great. In fact, electricity generation might temporarily drop to zero. But solar is a 25-year investment whose value is measured in annual output:

  • Some days, your panels will produce more energy than you can use.
  • Other days, performance will go down.

But you should focus on the total savings that your installation delivers throughout the year.

And remember that with net metering, you’ll always have reliable backup power. On super snowy days (or at night) simply buy whatever electricity you need from the grid. At the end of each billing cycle, you still end up paying less money than if you didn’t have solar panels installed at all.

In other words, solar offers guaranteed savings — even if you live in the snowiest regions of the continental United States.

Still not convinced?

Just look at Germany — one of the most active solar markets on the planet. Despite brutal winters, the country is on track to generate 100% of its electricity from green power sources by 2050.

Still Worried You Get Too Much Snow to Go Solar?

At Astrum Solar, we help homeowners and businesses all over the country — including countless customers in regions like upstate New York and Massachusetts. They accumulate a lot of snow. But they accumulate even more savings.

If you’d like to learn more about how snow affects solar panel performance, schedule a free consultation with our expert installation team.  We can answer any questions you might have.

Schedule your free appointment today!