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Solar Basics: Role of Weather in Solar System Production

 

Solar panels have the ability to operate across different climates and in changing weather conditions. From sunny days to snowstorms, climate and weather can play a significant role in the production and efficiency of a solar power installation. With accurate forecasting and proper equipment, experienced engineers can ensure the system operates at maximum efficiency to generate clean energy, no matter the weather. 

Climates with long, sunny days are ideal for solar energy production since direct sunlight for long periods can boost production. However, that does not necessarily mean cooler climates are at a huge disadvantage. In fact, like most other electronic equipment, solar panels operate at their highest efficiency when they are at a cooler temperature. Both warm and cool climates offer benefits for solar production, and in the end, the most important factor is the amount of sunlight reaching the surface of the panels.  

Tracking arrays can also help achieve maximum system performance; equipped with GPS and hydraulic power, they follow the path of the sun to maximize the amount of light received over the course of a day. Solar trackers are commonly available in one of two forms: single-axis trackers, which follow the sun from east to west throughout the day, and dual-axis trackers, which are designed to point directly towards the sun all-year-round, as the position of the sun changes relative to the system in different seasons to maximize production. 

While cloud coverage, precipitation or seasonality can affect solar’s overall performance, an overcast sky or rainstorm does not bring overall energy collection to a complete standstill by any means. In fact, natural weather patterns can offer unexpected benefits to solar panel installations. Rain and clouds may decrease solar irradiance — the amount of solar energy reaching the panel’s productive surface — but precipitation can also help panels operate efficiently by washing away dust or dirt.

Solar panels are also built to withstand heavy winds. Proper design and engineering of racking for photovoltaic systems on roofs, poles or the ground can ensure arrays are sturdy and stable through inclement weather. For rooftop systems, ballast blocks and physical attachments are used to anchor the system. In areas that experience hurricanes, engineers must design systems that meet the local building code’s wind load requirements to withstand these extreme weather events. Wind deflectors can also be deployed to turn the flow of air away from the underside of a panel.

Solar panels are typically made from tempered glass, which is engineered to be highly durable. Unlike standard plate glass, tempered glass is toughened through a chemical or thermal process that adds significant strength. Some panels incorporate two layers of glass into the front and back for additional strength and higher efficiency. While it is possible for photovoltaic surfaces to become damaged, solar panels are built to withstand high impact. After an unexpectedly severe hailstorm near Denver, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory set out to measure the damage to its array of more than 3,000 solar panels. Upon inspection, only one photovoltaic panel showed any signs of damage, even though the storm had damaged homes and shattered car windows. 

Weather’s role in solar panel performance is an important concern but an experienced developer is able to overcome most climate obstacles with the proper design and equipment. A good developer will also be able to forecast the system’s energy production using historic climate and weather data to give an accurate estimation for the client to ensure a solar system is a worthwhile investment at a specific site. From winter snow in the northeast to dust storms in the southwest, maintenance can keep solar panels operational in even the harshest of conditions without inhibiting production. EnterSolar’s operation and maintenance division, MaxSolar, monitors solar-energy systems over the course of their lifespan, which can be 25 years or more.

EnterSolar’s team of solar power experts serve the needs of corporate clients across the United States, including Aldi, Bloomberg, and Target. From financing to execution, EnterSolar helps businesses adopt solar solutions to eliminate volatile energy costs through environmentally friendly solutions. Contact EnterSolar today to begin realizing a green energy future.

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