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Solar Panel Efficiency vs. Weather

Anastasia KravchukMay 5, 201711510

When you decide to make the switch to solar energy, there are a lot of factors to consider: the cost of solar panels, where to place them, how much electricity will be generated, what maintenance is required, etc. One of the questions you may be worried about, especially if you live in an area with unpredictable climate, is how your solar equipment will fare under different weather conditions.

The good news is that solar technology has evolved to withstand even extreme weather conditions. You don’t need to live in a hot, cloud free desert to get the benefits of solar power. Lets take a look at the different weather conditions and their effect on the efficiency of your panels.

 

Sunshine/Heat

You may think that on a hot day your solar panels will be generating an amazing amount of electricity, but that is not always the case. Contrary to popular belief, solar panel efficiency is actually reduced by high temperatures. Electric conductivity increases under cold weather conditions, while any temperature over 91ﹾF actually means your solar panels will not be operating at maximum efficiency. The ideal temperature for solar panels is 25ﹾC or 77ﹾF, so the optimal climate for solar is both cold and sunny.

 

Clouds

Believe it of not, clouds do not completely block the rays of sunshine your solar panels need in order to function. Even on the cloudiest days, your solar panels will continue to generate electricity, albeit at a decreased rate. Remember that sunburn you got as a thank you for that beautiful cloudy day on the beach? That is because the sun’s rays, indirectly, still travel through the clouds. Think of it this way, if it is bright enough outside for you to be able to see using natural light, and your panels are not obstructed by shade, your solar equipment is still absorbing all that indirect light filtering through the clouds.

 

Rain

Similarly to cloudy weather, rainy days do not halt the production of solar energy. UV rays will still get though the clouds and the rainwater to your solar panels and energy will be produced. As an added benefit, the rain will give your dusty solar panels a free cleaning, which will help your PV system be even more efficient when the clouds clear. You do not have to worry about any water damage to solar panels, as the solar cells are fully protected from moisture with a strong backing sheet, barrier films, and tempered glass.

 

Thunderstorm/Lightning

If your solar panels are hit directly by lightning bolt, they will definitely suffer substantial damage, as this would melt or destroy the panels and perhaps even the inverter. Direct strikes can occur if you have a ground-mounted system in an isolated area or a roof mounted system on a very tall building.

However, direct strikes are considered rare, and if you live in an area that is frequently stormy, you should be more worried about being hit indirectly. Indirect strikes of lightning close to your solar PV system, would induce an electric surge, breaking down the conductors. Such a strike can also cause dangerous sparking, damaging the solar panels and igniting combustible materials. If there is a high chance of lightning storms in your area, you need to consider protective measures early on in the design stages of your system.

A good tip is to make sure your panels are covered by your homeowners insurance if you own your system, or that your contract covers damage from natural disasters if you are in a solar lease agreement.

 

Hail

The solar cells which are housed within the core of solar panels are fragile and could easily be damaged. However, in modern solar panels, the PV cells are protected by strong glass, laminate, and acrylic casings. A 1 cm hailstone can only travel at the speed of 20 miles an hour, the fastest speed it can attain while falling, and will not damage the solar panels whatsoever. In fact, even hailstones traveling at 50 miles an hour would not be able to damage your solar equipment. Direct damage from falling debris such as hail is very rare, due to tilted angles of installation and incredibly durable solar panel design. If you live in a place where big/fast hailstones are a problem, you should consider buying modern, reinforced solar panels that can withstand hailstones traveling up to 260 miles per hour.

 

Snow

If your solar panels are completely covered with snow, they will stop producing electricity. Fortunately, professional solar installers take snowy weather into account, and will angle solar panels in a way that will allow the snow of slide off. If your panels do get covered in a snow storm, you can either wait until the snow melts off, or try pouring water ─ preferably warm ─ onto your panels. Be very careful when cleaning off snow from your solar equipment as you may accidentally damage something and void your warranty. On the plus side, snow means colder temperatures, and most electric equipment, including solar equipment is actually much more efficient in cold temperatures.

Hopefully now you have a basic understanding of the effect of weather on the output of a solar powered system.

If you are still worried about weather proofing your panels against extreme weather you can read, Do I need to Prepare my Solar Panels for a Super Storm?

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