Both Coloradans and Texans are lucky enough to live in states that see all four seasons in a year. Is there anything better than the warm spring sunshine after a long, bitter winter? Unfortunately, it is that change in seasons that have many homeowners throughout the American West and West South Central assuming that the year-round weather affects solar energy production in a negative way — negatively enough that solar may not viable in this part of the country.
CAM Solar wants to squash this misconception once and for all. We have been in the solar industry since 1990, and have helped countless homeowners and business owners throughout Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, CO, as well as San Antonio and Austin, TX, reduce their carbon footprint and electricity costs by installing solar energy systems. Here’s what you need to know about how the seasons affect the output of a solar PV (photovoltaic) system.
The True Seasonality of Solar Power Output
You may already be thinking, “How can solar panels work when it is cloudy?” Who could blame you for asking? The electricity generated by solar panels in the fall and winter may be less than the spring and summer, but it is still an invaluable asset to both your home’s environmental impact and your wallet.
In order to make solar energy a viable source of electricity, you will need at least 4 hours of unobstructed peak sunlight per day. Both Texas and Colorado see enough peak sunshine hours throughout the year to justify solar installation:
Average Peak Sunlight in Texas: 4.9 hours
Average Peak Sunlight in Colorado: 6.2 hours
Solar Panel Production Under the Clouds
The sun is a powerful star. So powerful in fact, that even though it is almost 93 million miles away, the energy of the sun will still reach the solar panels on your roof or property through the clouds. On a cloudy day, solar panels will still produce between 10% and 25% of their normal output.
Yes, solar production by month will decline as summer turns to fall and fall to winter, but since both the science and manufacturing process behind solar panel systems have become much more efficient in recent decades, solar energy has become a viable year-round renewable energy solution. Here’s how.
Spreading the Sunshine
There are a few ways a properly designed and installed solar PV system can spread the sunshine across all four seasons. Firstly, solar panels actually operate more efficiently in cooler temperatures. For every degree above 25ºC (77ºF), solar panels will lose a certain percentage of their efficiency. This is called the solar panel temperature coefficient. So while the summertime may bring more daylight, solar panels will actually squeeze more energy out of less sunshine in the winter.
Net Metering: Saving It for Later
Secondly, during the brighter and warmer months where we see ample, unobstructed sunshine throughout the day, a properly designed solar PV system will generate more electricity than your home will be able to use at one time. So what happens to all of the excess electricity? It is sent back to the main electricity grid for use in other homes and businesses in exchange for a credit on your energy bill. This process is called net metering, and is made available by your local utility company.
We have helped many customers design their solar PV systems with net metering in mind, so that their energy credits can carry them through the cloudier months and even out their solar production and energy costs.
Solar Design with the Climate in Mind
No matter what solar challenges you are dealing with, the CAM Solar team makes it our business (literally) to find a solution for you. From choosing the right solar panel manufacturer and optimizing where your solar panels are installed on your property, to helping you get started with net metering and any available tax incentives or rebates, we are the experts in leveraging the climate here in Texas and Colorado for solar production.