A grid-linked solar array can costs over $35,000, even after taking into account the rebates that government allows on solar energy systems and therefore, it is quite natural that its owner gets jittery, when the meter of the solar panel indicates low output.
The performance of solar panels is at their best if there is a bright sunlight and the power generation drops down drastically once the sunlight fades. When someone has spent lot of money on solar panels, he would like to ensure that the power generation from the solar electrical system is at an optimum level and that he would get a reasonable return on his investment.
It is quite apparent that apart from cloudy weather, leaves, dust and droppings of birds would also contribute to lower power generation. For those having a grid-linked solar array, a 10% reduction in output means quite a heavy loss in dollar terms over a period of time.
Nevertheless, those who have gone out to a farmhouse or living in a house on a hill, the solar array makes living comfortable by providing lighting, music and enables pumping of water. They will not get disturbed if the batteries do not get charged on a particular day; they can always be charged the next day.
Living in the countryside setting is a lifestyle choice for those who love serene atmosphere, fresh air and enjoy watching eagles flying and birds chirping. However, it is entirely different in winter. Cloudy skies can pose a problem for the solar panels so also snow in the north or on mountains.
It is very important that these seasonal problems are anticipated well in advance and necessary steps are taken to ensure that there are no disruptions in performance of solar cells in the Photovoltaic (PV) array. Solar panels are effective, generating maximum possible output provided they are exposed thoroughly to bright sunshine during rest of the year.
The general perception is that in mid – winter, as daytime is shorter, the panels are exposed to less sunlight and consequently, there will be drop in power generation from the panels. Surprisingly even in severe cold, when there is enough sunlight, Photovoltaic panels function quite efficiently.
The situation is just the opposite during very hot weather; when both power drops and “heat fade” occurs. This is because when it is, too, hot solar cells function far below the optimum level leading to considerable drop in power generation and in winter, however, this problem does not arise.
Moreover, when in snowy conditions, the reflective light emanated compensates to some extent for the poor direct light. Those living in the outskirts and whose solar array is connected to the grid system should, therefore, take adequate precautions in winter, get a snow rake and keep the solar panel on a “soft squeegee strip” to prevent damage to the costly solar panels.
On a bright winter day, when most of the snow collected on the roof of the panels is cleared, the solar panels begin to function normally. As the snow melts, the heat generated will melt away the remaining snow and in the process, the panels also get a free wash! In addition, one should keep the birds away from the panels and wipe the surface of the solar array from time to time to clear the dust.
It may be also advisable to keep a frame and turn the array over it in order to prevent snow from collecting on the surface of the array. During the day or after snowfall, the array can be turned back to charge the batteries. Learning how to clean solar panels is not such a difficult challenge. A couple hours of cleaning and wiping will yield a substantial savings in the long run.