Winter Blues from Snow on our Solar
Mar 10, 2014
by EmPower Solar
A smart question that’s often asked about solar is, “What happens when it snows, or when it’s cloudy?” Unfortunately, this winter has seen plenty of instances of both!
This was the 7th snowiest winter for New York since records began in 1868. This winter, we’ve had fourteen snowfalls and nearly five feet of snow. The National Weather Service even released this image, pointing out that New York has had three feet more snow than Alaska this year!
So, what does happen to solar power when it snows?
When solar panels are installed on a home, the home still remains tied to the electric grid. That way, the utility company can both buy excess energy and provide electricity to the home if the solar panels can’t receive adequate sunlight.
Here’s how it works: during the summer, solar panels operate at their maximum capacity, and often produce more energy than the household needs. That excess energy is sent back to the grid, and the homeowner earns solar credits on their utility account. In the winter, when solar panels are not producing as much energy, homeowners can use their solar credits and receive energy back from the grid, thanks to those overproducing summer months.
When EmPower Solar designs rooftop systems, the team accounts for seasonal differences in solar production and savings so that clients receive the most accurate forecasts possible. Our company is comprised of native New York-ers from Long Island and NYC, so we’re all too familiar with the winter weather here!
Ed Olsen, one of our clients-turned-sales representatives, found some creative ways to clear the snow off of his panels, but even still is experiencing low production from his system. But, he says, it’s to be expected:
“This is my third year with solar on my roof, and at this point, I’m used to the seasonal cycles of solar. But this has by far been the snowiest winter ever, and it’s been extremely frustrating. The few sunny days we’ve had just happened to be right after massive snowfalls, so they didn’t amount to much. I even tried clearing the snow off my panels on several occasions, which I do not recommend! Unfortunately, snow is completely out of anybody’s control, and can have a big impact. I just have to wait it out.
Fortunately, after having solar for a few years now, I know that at the end of the year, I save money no matter what. I’m really looking forward to the spring this year!”
There are so many reasons why we can’t wait until the warmer weather gets here. And yes, one of those reasons is for our solar panels to return to their former glory!