Solar PV Panels Work In Winter

Thursday 11 November 2010

The number of Solar PV installations in the UK has risen by over 1500% in 2010 thanks to the Feed in Tariff scheme introduced in April 2010. And it is predicted to grow even further.

Yet despite this interest in the technology, and the significant income that Solar PV Panels can generate for their owner, there is still some misunderstanding around whether the climate in the UK is suitable for a technology that relies upon the sun.

The Solar PV industry is commonly asked:

"Do Solar PV Panels work when it's cold or cloudy or in the Winter?"

Well, the simple answer is YES!

The first thing to understand about Solar PV Panels is that they don't need a hot sunny day to produce electricity. They only need light. Obviously there tends to be an association between heat and light, but not always. On a sunny cold day, Solar PV Panels will produce more electricity per hour of sunlight than on a hot sunny day because the panels work best when they are cooler.

Even on a cloudy day, there is still plenty of light for Solar PV Panels to produce electricity. This is because the PV cells use both direct sunlight, and also diffused sunlight i.e. the light that is bounced around through dust and clouds.

The sunnier the day, the more electricity that is likely to be generated but the critical thing is the amount of sunlight not the ambient temperature. On longer days, more electricity will be generated but Solar PV Panels still produce electricity when it's cold, cloudy or during the Winter months.

Will Solar PV Panels produce electricity if it snows?
Again, the simple answer is YES! In fact, light still gets through a small amount of snow, which helps to heat the Solar PV Panels, which in turn helps to melt the snow away. Similarly when there is small amount of frost on a Solar PV panel, light still gets through to heat the panel and melt the frost.

If you have a lot of snow, you are advised (if you can) to brush it off gently, being careful not scratch the Solar PV Panels. However, please don’t attempt this if it is unsafe to do so. It is better to have a reduced electricity output than risk serious injury!

Is my house suitable?
To work at their best, Solar PV Panels should receive the maximum amount of daylight possible. Ideally you should install the panels on a south-facing roof angled at 30 degrees. Not every roof meets this criteria but providing the roof is angled to some degree and faces East, SE, South, SW or West, the panels will still produce sufficient electricity to make the project worthwhile.

What about shading?
The most important thing is to avoid shading. Even minor shading by buildings, trees, chimneys, dormer windows, etc. can result in poorly performing Solar PV Panels.

Maintenance
Solar PV Panels have no moving parts and the system requires little maintenance. The panels will mostly be kept clean by rain, but even if they become soiled by bird droppings etc. they are relatively easy to clean with a hose or non-abrasive cloth, if safe to do so.

What size PV system do I need?
With the introduction of the Feed in Tariff, it is normal practice now to install as large a system as physically possible (and within your budget) to maximise income. Our accredited installers will go through all the options, setting out the costs and the income from the Feed in Tariff. You can then choose the system that suits you best.

Should I install now or wait until the summer?
Now! The income from Feed in Tariffs is guaranteed for 25 years. So that's 25 Summers and 25 Winters no matter when Solar PV Panels are installed. The advantage of having the work carried out now is that waiting times are lower and the Solar PV market has never been brighter.


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