COLD, SUNNY DAYS are ideal for solar panel output.
Solar panels achieve peak perfor- mance on clear, sunny days, but when bad weather or pollution
roll in, energy harvesting nosedives. You
can’t change the weather or the air quality, but these tips will help ensure the
best possible solar panel efficiency no
matter what’s happening outside.
Four key factors affect solar panel
output, according to Suvi Sharma, CEO
of solar panel manufacturer Solaria.
1. Available sunlight: The amount of
sunlight that falls on your solar panels
is primarily driven by your location,
2. Temperature: “Contrary to what
people often think, the colder it is, the
better the solar panels perform,” Sharma
explains. “Some of the best production is
in places like Colorado where you have a
lot of cold, sunny days.” This is because
the solar cells inside the panels degrade
when they get hot, resulting in less efficient solar panels. Computers and other
devices that use semiconductors experience the same phenomenon.
3. Shading: This category refers to
anything blocking the sunlight that’s not
a cloud. Some shading is controllable,
like trees, and some isn’t, like smog.
4. Soiling: Dirt, dust and other grime
that accumulates on the surface affects
solar panel efficiency.
How to Increase
Solar Panel Output
The best thing you can do to keep
your solar panels at peak output is
keeping them clean, Sharma notes. The
angle of the panel can also make a difference, but unless your panels can be
reoriented to capitalize on the direction
of the sun, you probably can’t do much
about the angle.
“If it’s raining frequently, you don’t
It’s also a good idea to monitor
need to clean them, but if there are long
periods with no precipitation, clean-
ing can make a difference,” Sharma
explains. “Cleaning a system that hasn’t
been cleaned for a couple of months can
improve it by 10 percent or higher. That’s
the single biggest factor.”
If you have a large enough solar instal-
lation, like a solar roof or parking lot
canopies with photovoltaic panels, you
might benefit from hiring a third-party
professional with solar panel cleaning
experience. Don’t try to save money by
having your regular cleaning service do
the work – someone who specializes in
solar panel cleaning will be familiar with
how to clean solar panels without scratch-
ing the surface.
module-level performance to see if any
components are starting to fail, Sharma
Solar panels can last up to 30 years
and components like the inverter, which
Sharma says is the biggest failure point in
the system, only last about 10. Not watch-
ing for unexpected dips in performance
could mean that your panels will operate
inefficiently for months or years before
you catch the failure.
Later, when you upgrade your solar
panels, be sure to investigate the internal
components and technologies of your
panel options rather than just the final
cost. Net production vs. the cost of owner-
ship is the most important, Sharma says.
“It’s not just the solar panels, it’s
also the electronics,” Sharma adds.
“Sometimes it’s more expensive up
front in terms of the capital investment
because you’re spending more for sophisticated solar panels or electronics, but the
net result is that it pays back over time
much better because you’re harvesting
Janelle Penny firstname.lastname@example.org
is a senior writer for BUILDINGS.
WHY PHOTOVOLTAIC PRODUCTION GOES DOWN AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT