Here at Ion Solar Pros (in sunny Wolcott, Connecticut) a question that we’re often asked by people considering solar panels is whether they work on cloudy or rainy days, or when it snows. The short answer is yes, solar panels do function in overcast skies and in inclement weather, although they won’t generate as much electricity as they would in direct sunlight. However, the excess energy generated during sunny hours offsets the decrease in power during cloudy conditions and at night. Generally, an average of four hours a day of peak sunlight is enough to make a social energy system cost-effective no matter where you live.
Research done by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at
testing centers also shows that solar can generate energy even in cold and snowy
climates. Wind can blow off light snow, and heavier snowfall tends to slide off solar
panels and melt when the sun comes out, so removing snow from the panels is usually
not advised. Rain and melting snow actually keep solar panels operating more
efficiently by washing away dust and dirt.
Extreme heat may slightly reduce efficiency, as solar panels produce less power from
the same amount of sunlight when temperatures rise above ninety degrees. But even
intense summer heat does not damage solar panels. They are built to withstand
different weather conditions including hail and hurricane-strength winds.
What about freezing temperatures? The good news is, cold climates are ideal for solar
energy systems because solar cells produce electricity more efficiently in colder
temperatures. Energy is generated by the sun’s light, not the sun’s heat. This is why it
isn’t necessary to live in states like Florida, Texas, or California to get a return on
investment. States like Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey are some of the leading places to go solar. Solar panels are even used in Alaska and in Antarctica, the coldest place on earth!