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Solar Panels in Cold Climates: Debunking Cold Weather Myths

Published on:
1 December 2023

When it comes to solar energy, the prevailing misconception is that it thrives exclusively in warm and sunny climates. This belief has led to scepticism about the viability of solar power in colder regions, such as the UK. In this blog post, we will debunk common myths surrounding solar energy in cold climates and shed light on how solar panels can survive and thrive during winter.

Myth 1: Solar Panels Don’t Work Well in Cold Weather

Contrary to popular belief, solar panels don’t need scorching temperatures to generate electricity. In fact, they often perform more efficiently in colder weather. According to a study conducted by the University of Sheffield’s Solar Team[^1^], solar panels in the UK demonstrate higher efficiency during winter due to the cooler temperatures. The study found that for every degree above 25°C, solar panel efficiency decreases by about 0.45%. Therefore, the UK’s cooler climate can enhance solar panels’ performance. (https://www.solar.sheffield.ac.uk/)

Myth 2: Snow on Solar Panels Renders Them Useless

The idea of snow covering solar panels is a concern for many in colder climates. However, solar panels are designed to be resilient and self-cleaning. Snow can slide off tilted solar panels due to their smooth surface, and the panels can absorb sunlight even when a thin layer of snow is present. A report by the Solar Energy Industries Association emphasises that the angle of solar panels, along with their dark surfaces, encourages snow to melt and slide off more quickly than it would on other surfaces.
Moreover, the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) highlights in their guidance that solar panels can still generate electricity in winter, even with reduced sunlight hours. The UK’s solar capacity continues to grow, showcasing that the technology is not hindered by occasional snowfall or cold temperatures.

Myth 3: Days Are Too Short in Winter for Solar Power to Be Effective

While it’s true that winter days are shorter, solar panels can still harness enough sunlight to generate significant power. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reports that even on cloudy days, solar panels can produce energy as they are capable of capturing diffuse sunlight. Advances in solar technology, such as the development of bifacial solar panels, allow them to capture sunlight from both sides, increasing efficiency even in low-light conditions.

Myth 4: Cold Temperatures Damage Solar Panels

Solar panels are built to withstand a range of weather conditions, including cold temperatures. In fact, extreme heat can sometimes be more detrimental to solar panel efficiency than cold. The Solar Energy Industries Association highlights that solar panels undergo rigorous testing to ensure durability and performance under various environmental conditions, including freezing temperatures.

Conclusion: Solar Panels Shine in Cold Climates

In conclusion, the myths surrounding the viability of solar energy in cold climates are based on misconceptions rather than factual evidence. With its temperate climate, the UK is a testament to the success of solar power even in colder regions. The efficiency of solar panels in cooler temperatures, their ability to handle snowfall, their adaptability to shorter days, and their durability against cold temperatures all contribute to debunking these myths.

As the UK continues to invest in renewable energy and witness the growth of solar capacity, it’s evident that solar panels not only survive but thrive in cold climates. Embracing solar energy in colder regions is not just a sustainable choice; it’s a smart one that can lead to long-term cost savings and a reduced environmental footprint.