Solar energy is an excellent way for Albuquerque homeowners to reduce their impact on the environment while saving on utility bills. However, there’s a drawback to solar panels that isn’t avoidable: Solar panels’ performance fluctuates throughout the year. This is unlike traditional energy, like natural gas and coal, which can provide consistent energy levels throughout.
The performance of Albuquerque solar panels hinge on outdoor conditions, which will change with the seasons. Let’s learn more about what you can expect from your solar panel system throughout the year.
Solar Energy Production: Summer vs. Winter
While solar panels will fluctuate throughout all four seasons – spring, summer, fall, and winter – the most notable difference will be between summer and winter. In the dead of winter, solar panels can produce as much as 60% less energy than during the hottest summer months. Of course, here in Albuquerque, we experience mild winters, compared to other parts of the country, with minimal snowfall. This means that solar panel output for Albuquerque homeowners won’t drop as drastically in December and January.
Why Does Solar Panel Performance Change With The Seasons?
There are a handful of factors that make solar panel output fluctuate based on the time of year. These factors include:
The Length of The Days
In summer, the days are longer and the sun is at a higher position in the sky. This results in more sunlight and more opportunity for your solar panels to produce energy. During the winter, the sun is at a lower angle and the days are shorter. Even at midday on a winter day, the sun will be lower in the sky. This limits the amount of direct sunlight that hits your solar panels and, thus, the energy that your panels can produce from day to day.
We all know that the weather changes with the seasons. But, did you know that the weather can also impact solar panel output? It’s true. During the winter, the days are more likely to be gray and cloudy with precipitation. Clouds obstruct the sun and can make for less sunlight hitting your solar panels. While solar panels can still create energy for your home on a cloudy day, it will be upwards of 25% less energy than you would get on a sunny day.
Contrary to what many people assume, snow doesn’t make an overwhelming impact on solar energy production. The cold temperatures that come when it snows can actually improve the efficiency of your solar panel system. This is because low temperatures will keep your solar panels from reaching their peak temperature. In extremely high temperatures, solar panels don’t work as efficiently as possible. In fact, extremely high temperatures can limit solar panel efficiency by up to 25%.
That said, if snow accumulates on your solar panels, it will keep the sun’s rays from reaching the panels, thus bringing your home’s solar energy production to a halt. But, typically, snow doesn’t stay on solar panels for long. Solar panels are dark-colored, after all. The surface of the panels will absorb heat and encourage the snow to melt quicker. Usually, snow melts off of solar panels quickly enough to not make a large impact on the solar panel system’s output. Additionally, small amounts of snow on solar panels won’t fully prevent the panels from producing energy.
Will Energy Bills Be Higher In The Winter?
Considering the fact that solar panels produce less energy in the winter, many solar panel system panel owners wonder whether their energy bills will be higher during the cold weather months. This is because if solar panels produce less energy in the winter, homeowners may need to pay the energy company more to make up the difference. However, with net metering, this may not be the case.
Net metering allows homeowners to use any excess energy that their solar panels produce at times when the panels are underperforming. For example, if your solar panels produce more energy than your household uses during the summer, you’ll gain an energy credit for the excess amount through net metering. If your solar panels don’t produce as much energy as your household consumes in the winter, you can use that credit instead of having to pay for the additional energy.
To learn more about solar panels for year-round energy in Albuquerque, contact EcoSave Solar today.