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Fact or Fiction: Are solar panels effective during the winter?

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This story is sponsored by Clear Solar. Learn more about Clear Solar.

If you’ve driven through Utah neighborhoods recently, you may have noticed a growing — or should we say, glowing — trend on the rooftops of many homes throughout the area.

No, it’s not the morning frost, snow accumulation or even the carefully placed Christmas lights. But it is something just as spectacular and fitting for the winter season that is very much upon us.

These glowing rooftop fixtures are solar panels.

However, many Utahns are reluctant to convert to solar energy because they question their effectiveness during the cold, winter months the state experiences. And their concerns are valid, given solar panels use sunlight as the source of energy.

In an effort to address these concerns, Clear Solar has separated the facts from the fiction regarding solar panels in the winter.

Fact: Cold weather does not negatively affect solar panels

While solar panels get energy from the sun, it is not the heat but the light that the sun produces that gives solar panels what they need to generate energy.

In fact, as solar panels get hotter, they will produce less power from the same amount of sunlight. This makes it so that extremely hot temperatures actually lower the effectiveness of solar panels, whereas a clear, cold winter day can often increase the panels’ ability to generate energy.

Just think about the last time you went snow skiing. It wasn’t warm, but somehow you still got a sunburn. Same concept.

Fiction: Snow accumulation on panels is something to worry about

While it is true that snow can block solar panels from generating energy, the panels are usually positioned facing south, west or southwest toward the sun, so that the snow will likely melt quickly.


Additionally, because the panels are smooth, snow doesn’t stick to them like it does to rough roof shingles, and coupled with the steep angles of the panels, snow usually slides away quickly and easily on its own.

If it doesn’t, melt or fall off, the snow can easily be swept off with a roof rake or broom.

Fact: Less sunlight in the winter means less energy

During winter, the sun is lower in the sky, and as a result, is producing a bit less energy. And, coupled with the shorter winter days, the outcome is, unfortunately, that solar panels will not be as effective in winter.

This need not be a concern, however.

Upon installation, the solar panel company will tie the panels into the electric grid of your utility company as a backup to make up the difference when the panels aren’t generating enough power. Furthermore, solar panel owners need not worry about the added cost, as the energy reserve accumulated over the longer days in the year will offset any additional cost in the wintertime.

Fiction: Solar panels don’t work on overcast days

Solar panels still work on days with a lot of cloud cover, as long as they receive enough light to generate electrical currents.

If you’re not convinced, perhaps knowing that Germany — a country that has some of the most cloud cover and that receives less sunlight per year than any part of the continental U.S. — has the highest use of solar power in the world, with 22 percent of its power generated with renewables.

Utah’s winters may be cold and filled with snow and many overcast days, but that is no reason to shy away from solar power. Utah’s seasonal weather, including its beautiful winters, is perfect for taking advantage of the clean and renewable energy of solar panels.