Harnessing the power of the sun is not only environmentally and forward-thinking, it can also be quite economical. Using solar panels to power your energy needs is a great way to go green while reducing your energy bills.
Solar panels are made up of a group of cells called photovoltaic, or PV, cells. Photovoltaic means “light electricity.” These photovoltaic cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. A group of these cells connected electronically and packaged into a frame makes a panel. They can be constructed in varying voltages that will define the power, or wattage, they will produce.
Installing these panels on the roof in order to create a solar powered energy system is not an inexpensive option; however it will pay off in the long run, and is also great for our environment. Some things to think about if you plan to install them, include the angle of your roof’s incline, whether there are trees or other objects in the direct path between your panels and the sun, and how many panels you will want according to how much voltage your system will generate.
The most efficient way for solar panels to work are when they are installed pointing true south (for the Northern Hemisphere), although other orientations will also work in a less efficient manner. The panels should also be inclined at an angle as close to your area’s latitude as possible to absorb the maximum amount of energy all year long.
Any type of shade covering the panels will decrease power production, and it could possibly cause a significant decrease.
A decrease in power production can also occur when snow falls on the solar panels. Because they generate energy by the cells being wired together, if one panel is obscured by anything, including snow, then all the panels will have the same reaction.
Snow can be swept off the panels if you have a ladder and feel comfortable climbing to your roof with a broom and sweeping off the panels. However, by doing this you can cause irreparable damage to your costly solar panels that would not be worth it in the end.
Germany, the world leader in generating and utilizing solar energy despite its snowy climate during winter months, has marketed a product that is similar to a car’s windshield wipers that will clear debris, especially snow, from solar panels so you don’t have to deal with the ladder and possible damage by handling the snow yourself.
If it’s just a light snow that has fallen, they will still be operable. However, when a few inches of snow has fallen and is blocking sunshine completely, they will not be able to generate power. Solar panels work as a unit of cells, so if one part of a panel is covered in snow, it may shut down the rest of the panel as well.
The good news is if you have solar panels covered by snow you don’t really have to worry about energy output because your total energy is calculated throughout the whole year, which means that variations in energy output during the winter months are evened out by higher output months other parts of the year.
If you get a snowfall where the snow will melt quickly, or possibly even be blown away then you really shouldn’t worry about any effect to your solar panels. And if the snow stays on the ground for any length of time it can actually help your energy production. Ground snow reflects the sun’s rays and can actually help increase your solar panel energy, making it more efficient than in the summertime. In addition, when the snow falls off your solar panels it also cleans the panels and boosts their power output.
The nature of solar panels is to generate heat, so no matter how much snow falls on them, immediate melting occurs and is aided by the reflection of the sun caused by the snow itself. So, unless a large amount of snow falls, your solar panels are probably going to be just fine without any maintenance.