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How much power does a solar panel generate in winter?

Author:

Rory Dixon

As the temperature drops, homeowners who have invested in solar panels might start to wonder about their system’s efficiency during the colder months. A common question that we get asked is, “Do solar panels work in winter?” The answer is a resounding yes.

While you might see a dip in power generation compared to summer’s long, sunny days, solar panels continue to be a valuable asset throughout the year. Let’s take a look at how solar panels generate electricity in winter and explore strategies you can use to maximise their efficiency.

Understanding Solar Power Generation: It’s All About Light, Not Heat

Firstly, it’s important to understand that solar panels convert sunlight, not heat, into electricity. This photovoltaic (PV) process happens when sunlight strikes the cells within the panel, generating electricity. As long as there’s sunlight, your panels will be producing power, even on crisp winter mornings.

In fact, cooler temperatures can even be more beneficial for solar panel efficiency. Lower temperatures can actually improve the performance of your solar panels, offsetting the shorter days and lower sun position during the winter months.

Weather Conditions Play a Role

Besides the shorter days, winter weather conditions can also impact solar power generation. Snow, heavy cloud cover, and storms can temporarily reduce the efficiency of your solar panels. While snow is less of a concern in most parts of Australia, cloudy and rainy days can still decrease the overall solar yield.

Luckily, most modern solar panels are designed to capture diffuse solar radiation—that’s scattered sunlight that breaks through the clouds. Even on cloudy days, your panels will continue to generate electricity, albeit at a reduced efficiency.

In regions like Melbourne or Sydney, where cloudy days are more frequent in winter, solar systems are often slightly oversized to compensate for these conditions, ensuring a steadier energy output across the year.

Do Solar Panels Still Generate Enough Electricity in Winter to Be Worthwhile?

Even with reduced daylight hours, solar panels in Australia can still generate a significant amount of electricity in winter. Here’s why:

 

Energy Usage Patterns

Homes and businesses in Australia often consume less electricity during winter due to decreased reliance on air conditioning and pool pumps. This means that even with slightly lower power generation, solar panels can still offset a substantial portion of your winter energy use.

 

Feed-in Tariffs

Many electricity providers in Australia offer feed-in tariffs, which means you get paid for excess solar energy you generate and export back to the grid. Even during winter, when your power usage might exceed your power generation, you can benefit from these tariffs during summer’s surplus production.

 

Long-Term Savings

Solar panels are a long-term investment. While winter generation might be lower, the overall annual energy production and cost savings are significant. Plus, the environmental benefits of clean, renewable energy remain constant throughout the year.

How to Maximise the Performance of Solar Panels in Winter

There are several strategies to maximise your solar panel’s performance in winter. These include adjusting your panel angle and keeping up the regular maintenance of your solar power system. Try these strategies out for yourself this winter:

 

Adjust the angle of your panels

In Australia, adjusting the tilt of your solar panels to capture more of the lower winter sun can help increase your system’s efficiency. The optimal angle can vary by location but generally, it should be steeper in winter to align closer to the sun’s lower path.

Typically, solar panels are installed at an angle that reflects the latitude of the installation site to maximise year-round performance, but the specific tilt for optimising your solar panels in winter can be calculated by adding about 15 degrees to the latitude angle.

 

Keep on top of regular maintenance and servicing

To make sure your solar power system is performing as optimally as possible, it’s important to keep the solar panels clean and free of debris. Dust, leaves, and bird droppings can reduce efficiency, even more so when the available sunlight is already limited. In fact, studies have shown that even a thin layer of dust can reduce solar panel efficiency by 5% to 25%.

For basic dust and dirt, a simple hose down might be enough, but for more stubborn grime, like bird droppings, a soft brush and soapy water can be used to gently scrub the panels clean. If your solar panels are located on roofs or aren’t easily accessible, it’s best to make use of professional cleaning services.

 

Use a combination of solar panels and battery storage

By combining your existing solar panels with battery storage, you can maximise the use of the electricity generated by your solar panelling. Battery storage systems work by capturing extra energy that isn’t immediately used—this stored energy can then be put to use during the winter months when solar radiation is at its weakest.

By using battery storage to accumulate excess solar energy, you can maintain a consistent and reliable power supply regardless of the time of day or weather conditions. Instead of purchasing expensive grid electricity to make up for shortfalls, you can use the energy stored in your batteries.

 

The Verdict

So, do solar panels generate electricity in winter? Yes, they do. While winter might bring challenges like reduced daylight and overcast skies, modern solar technology and strategic planning make it possible to harness your solar energy all year round.

Additionally, any concerns you have about solar energy production in winter should be balanced against the long-term gains of using solar power. The energy produced over the lifetime of a solar panel, even when considering seasonal fluctuations, delivers a significant reduction in your household’s carbon footprint and protects you against rising energy costs.

At Think Renewable, our solar panel installers have extensive experience with solar panel systems that are optimised for Australian conditions, including winter performance. We can help you understand the potential benefits of solar power for your home or business, no matter the season.

Get in touch with us today and let our knowledgeable and friendly team guide you towards a greener future with practical solutions that work for you.

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