by | Jul 3, 2021 | Blog

Infographic depicting a home powered by solar energy and other renewable sources

Summary

  • There are many misconceptions about how the weather affects commercial solar panels. While the best weather for solar energy yield features a clear sky and relatively mild temperatures, most manufacturers build solar panels to withstand diverse conditions and work effectively in most circumstances.
  • Even in Canada and other countries with notably cold winters, solar panels are an excellent choice for generating renewable energy because snow can easily slide off the surface while simultaneously reflecting the sun’s light.
  • If you’re connected to the grid, solar panels won’t protect you from a storm-triggered blackout unless you have installed a solar battery or individual off-grid system.
  • There are many potential benefits to green investing, including long-term financial savings and opportunities to promote eco-friendly values. Commercial solar panels are generally low maintenance, and solar capacity is on a steady rise. Furthermore, the world is moving towards sustainable choices. Therefore, it’s desirable for investors to continue pioneering these changes by leading the solar movement (along with reaping the potential rewards).

Introduction

Did you know that approximately 430 quintillion joules of solar energy travel towards our planet on a daily basis (that’s 430 followed by eighteen zeros)? The scale is almost unimaginable, and it’s one of many reasons why people are seeking to harness the sun’s power and make use of it as an eco-friendly way to support their daily activities. However, while the sun emits a seemingly endless supply of energy, solar technology is continually developing to utilize as much of this power as possible. If you’re considering investing in solar energy or even installing solar panels at your home, there are many questions that are worth considering. Luckily, we’ll be tackling one of them in this article.

So, how does the weather really affect commercial solar panels? This text will explore themes of climate, energy production, and how efficient solar panels are in different weather conditions.

While it’s a misconception to think that solar panels will only work in the sunniest places, there is a reason why some of the most notable solar projects in the world are situated in areas that are exposed to high levels of sunlight. These locations can range from the deserts of Nevada to Canadian off-grid regions (which we’ll talk more about later). Without further ado, let’s address some burning, weather-themed questions.

Can Solar Panels Function Well in Rainy or Cloudy Conditions?

While few of us see a rainy or cloudy day as an opportunity to make the most of the sunshine, solar technology can still work in these conditions.

There is a great deal of curiosity and misinformation about how the weather may affect the capacity of solar panels. Due to concerns about snow, hail, and even wildfires, businesses, investors, and homeowners are worried if their green investments will survive against the elements. By far, one of the most popular queries is whether solar panels can function well when the sun is hiding behind the clouds. While few of us see a rainy or cloudy day as an opportunity to make the most of the sunshine, solar technology can still work in these conditions.

The sky isn’t clear every day, but that doesn’t mean your solar panels won’t produce energy, as the production will depend on the density of the clouds. Modern commercial solar panels convert light into energy, so even on a cloudy day, your solar panels will work with the limited sunlight they receive (though the energy yield may be slightly lower). According to a 2016 study, low cloud coverage and fog have the most pronounced impact on solar energy production, while high cloud coverage is less of an obstacle.

Interestingly, rain may be beneficial to the functioning of your solar project. The rain will wash away any debris and dust that settles on the surface of the panel (which may otherwise disrupt its production).

Snowfall and Commercial Solar Panels

All in all, if the snow can slide down the incline or the wind can blow it away, snowfall shouldn’t affect solar energy production too much.

The winter months may indeed affect the performance of commercial solar panels. Since there are fewer peak sunlight hours, it’s normal to see a decrease in energy production. In extreme circumstances, ‘off-gridders’ (i.e. people who live in incredibly remote areas that are disconnected from the national grid) respond to solar production changes in the colder months by slowing down and shifting their energy consumption habits. In fact, researchers at Royal Roads University in British Columbia have found that these individuals are less likely to use modern conveniences and more likely to choose low-power appliances and manual tools during the harshest winters.

In Canada, people tend to worry about how snowfall may impact the efficiency of solar energy systems. Fortunately, snowfall may not be as big of a hindrance as you may think. Being built at an angle means that solar panels are at an optimum position to intake UV rays. This also means that snow can normally slide off with ease. Their durable construction can withstand weight from heavy snowfall, and the sun’s rays can even penetrate through a thin layer of snow.

You may find that production levels can decrease during particularly heavy snow seasons if the snow builds up. Consequently, if you live in a colder climate, you may want to choose solar panels without frames (as framed panels may prevent the snow from falling off and cause energy production to be lower). As an alternative, you could install a snow guard or manually brush the snow off to clear the surface. Interestingly, as long as the solar panels aren’t completely covered, these weather conditions may increase the capability of the photovoltaic (PV) solar system because white blankets of snow can reflect the sun’s rays. Moreover, the cold climate could prove beneficial as it prevents the device from overheating. All in all, if the snow can slide down the incline or the wind can blow it away, snowfall shouldn’t affect solar energy production too much.

Family in a snowy field with solar panels tilted towards the sun

How Does Stormy Weather Affect Commercial Solar Panels?

Beyond severe hail, some extreme and unpredictable weather conditions, such as cyclones, can put solar projects at risk.

If you live in a region that experiences hail storms on a frequent basis, this may be a cause for concern. Solar panels go through strict testing to make sure extreme weather doesn’t cause too much destruction. These robust systems will make it through hot summers, freezing winters, and even mild hail storms. In some circumstances, extremely forceful and large hailstones may have the potential to damage the glass, but in most cases, your panels should be secure.

Beyond severe hail, some extreme and unpredictable weather conditions, such as cyclones, can put solar projects at risk. There’s usually no preparing for weather like this, and it’s best to have insurance that covers it. Most commercial solar panels come with a warranty, and standard insurance should cover your new energy supply if it’s a permanent addition to your home or business property.

Can commercial solar panels protect your property from storm-triggered blackouts?

The effect of storm-triggered blackouts and power outages on solar panels is a common question, and the short answer is that, no, they won’t protect you from a blackout. If you’re connected to the main grid, you will not have access to power unless you have an independent off-grid system or solar battery installed.

Standard household energy is alternating current (AC), and through an inverter, solar energy gets converted to AC to connect to the grid. However, during an outage, the grid is offline, and the inverter doesn’t have an AC reference. Therefore it cannot maintain the quality of solar energy. Additionally, the inverter must be turned off to protect the grid. If the inverter remained on and a burst of sunlight came through, the solar panels would pick this up, and a sudden surge of energy would go through the grid, making it hazardous for people working on the power lines.

Solar Panel Temperature Thresholds and Durability

Most solar panels have a maximum temperature of 85 degrees celsius (185 Fahrenheit).

There is a common myth that the higher the temperature is, the more renewable energy gets created; however, this isn’t strictly true. Solar panels are strategically positioned at an angle to increase the intake of light rays, not heat. Similar to most technology, if the weather is particularly hot, a device may overheat and run at a slower capacity. Think about a time you were using your cell phone in hot weather; it may have heated up quickly, and as a result, it ran slower. It may be similar for solar panels, highlighting that heat doesn’t equate to higher energy output.

With this in mind, solar panels are expertly built to withstand high temperatures, and manufacturers rigorously test them for safety. In fact, most solar panels have a maximum temperature of 85 degrees celsius (185 Fahrenheit). Thus, they should still stand hot weather and make the most of the light prospects that are available on any given day.

As you have discovered, most modern solar panels are incredibly resilient. While a clear, sunny day will yield the most amount of renewable energy, they can work effectively with rain, snow, and even light hail. However, it’s best to get insurance for your solar investment, especially if your country is prone to extreme weather conditions. Solar panels are durable and rigorously tested so that they can withstand most weather conditions.

Infographic depicting the engineering behind commercial solar panels and wind turbines

What are the Most Cited Benefits of Commercial Solar Panels?

When compared with wind, solar energy production is steadily rising and expected to increase for years to come.

Transitioning to a renewable energy source like solar power can have a significant upfront cost that may put off some prospective investors. However, the potential long-term benefits of investing in solar panels often outweigh the initial expenses. Below, we’ve summarised some of the key advantages that are worth keeping in mind when it comes to commercial solar panels.

  • Saving Money: Renewable energy sources are becoming so popular, particularly for their economic viability. Once upon a time, solar was an expensive option; however, as more manufacturers emerge, the cost is decreasing. But this isn’t the only way solar projects can result in higher savings. After the initial installation cost, you may have an opportunity to make your money back from reduced utility bills and increased building value. Moreover, despite production being at its highest in warmer months, it may be wise to consider investing in solar panels during winter when demand tends to be lower.
  • Renewable Energy is Rising: Investing in solar may be a good opportunity to stay ahead of the trends. While green investing and many forms of renewable energy are on the rise, solar may be the way to go. When compared with wind, solar energy production is steadily rising and is expected to increase for years to come. In addition, Canada is the place to be for solar projects as the solar capacity is on a steep incline (with an average growth rate of 41.31% in 2019)! By investing in solar projects, you’re getting ahead of the increasing search for sustainable energy solutions.
  • Low Maintenance: Solar panels do not have any moving parts – making them relatively low maintenance and reducing the ongoing cost of investing. If rainfall doesn’t naturally remove dirt, bird droppings, or other debris, you may need to clean your solar panels. However, there is no specialist equipment required, and you can hire a professional if you’re not confident in doing it safely. As long as your panels are correctly installed by an accredited professional, the ongoing cost of solar panels is low.
  • Selling Energy: Alongside being low maintenance, solar energy can be a wise financial investment as you may be in a position to sell energy back to the grid after a certain period. Depending on your production level, you could make your money back after 8-12 years and begin to earn from your renewable energy source. According to experts at the US Department of Energy, you may potentially experience some level of solar energy payback in as few as four years.
  • Corporate Responsibility: Consumers and brands are looking to buy from and work with brands that take their corporate responsibility seriously. For brands, this means investing in sustainable practices and reducing your impact on the plant. As the world becomes more sustainable, this may be key for increasing sales and building stronger relationships with your audience. Therefore, green investments like solar energy can be an efficient way to do this.

Closing Thoughts

Now you know how the weather really affects commercial solar panels and the benefits of going green, we hope you feel confident in what solar energy can do. With vast amounts of people looking to make the world a more sustainable place, it’s essential to continue to support the development of solar energy. There are several ways to do this, including buying solar panels for your home or business and investing in solar energy projects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can solar panels overheat in hot weather?

Most people believe solar panels produce more energy the hotter it is. However, it’s important to remember that solar energy comes from converting light, not heat. Consequently, while solar panels go through strict tests to ensure they can withstand extreme weather conditions, they may not perform at their best in extremely hot conditions. With this said, solar panels are hotter than the air around them because they absorb the sun’s heat. Therefore they can usually withstand temperatures up to 85 degrees celsius.

 

Can solar panels get damaged by hail and other extreme weather conditions?

As we outlined earlier in this article, tests are carried out on every solar project to confirm the durability and strength of solar panels. They are typically built to withstand most weather conditions, from rain to snow (and even light hail showers). However, there are some extreme and unpredictable weathers, like cyclones, that may damage a panel and its casing. In these instances, it is beneficial to have insurance.

 

Does insurance cover weather-related damage to solar panels?

Standard homeowners insurance usually includes solar panel coverage because it would be considered a permanent addition to your home. These insurances should cover damage from wind, rain, hail, and even lighting. However, it’s best to review this agreement with your provider first to ensure it’s right for you and check if you might benefit from a separate policy. Finally, if you lease your panels, the company that owns the solar panels will be responsible for arranging the correct insurance.

 

Does Canada have good weather for solar panels?

Despite the cold climate, Canada has efficient weather for solar energy. As most panels are on a slant, snow can slide off easily, especially when it’s windy. Each panel is designed to survive freezing temperatures and may even work better in the snow because the white surface reflects the sun’s rays. Additionally, Canada’s solar capacity is growing steadily year on year, making it an ideal place for renewable energy. In all, it’s an excellent place for solar panels due to the adequate weather conditions, the abundance of space, and the broader potential for renewable energy sources.

 

What is the best weather for solar panels?

It is common to assume a hot day is best for producing more solar energy. However, the key to high energy levels is a clear day with minimal clouds. If the temperature is mild, this may even be better as it prevents the device from overheating and slowing down. With this said, solar panels are generally versatile and can withstand different weather conditions as they are built with longevity in mind.

 

Westbridge Energy Corporation

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