Solar panels even work in winter

Yes, solar panels work in winter. Solar panels work by converting sunlight into electricity, not heat. Although there are less available sunlight hours in winter months, a solar panel system can still produce electricity, albeit solar output will be lower than in summer months. The benefit of the winter climate, is that the lower temperature actually improves the efficiency of the solar panels.

This infographic shows the average solar power output for the winter months as compared to average daily production in Australia's five largest cities: Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

Winter output

Solar panels will produce less electricity in winter months than at other times throughout the year, due to the lower sunshine hours. Exactly how much lower, depends on where you live in Australia.

The graph below shows solar output for a 6.6kW system in Sydney during the winter months versus all other months in the year.

This graph shows the monthly average solar production for a 6.6kW solar system in Sydney. The three winter months are highlighted so that winter production can be compared against other months.

In Sydney, solar panel output during the winter months is around 64% of the average daily production.

Winter output varies in Australian cities

Of the major Australian cities, Brisbane has the best winter conditions with solar output at 73% of average production. Contrast this to Melbourne where solar output is only 50% of average annual output.

The table below shows winter output in major Australian cities for a 6.6kW system.

6.6kW system winter output in major cities:
Adelaide 14.4kWh 52%
Brisbane 20.2kWh 73%
Melbourne 11.9kWh 50%
Perth 16.2kWh 56%
Sydney 16.4kWh 64%

Lower temperatures aid winter production

The lower temperatures experienced in the winter months are actually a plus for generating solar. Solar panels operate more efficiently at lower temperatures. It is not the lack of heat that impacts on solar output in winter, rather it is the reduced sunshine hours.

Best angle for winter production

Year round, the best angle for solar panels is typically the latitude angle of your location. However, during the winter months, the sun travels on a lower arc. If you want to maximise winter solar output, it is best to increase the tilt of your panels so that they are perpendicular to the lower arc of the sun.

Shading is more prevalent in winter

Any solar panel shading issues you have at your property are likely to be amplified during the winter months as the lower arc of the sun casts longer shadows. More shading means lower production, but your solar panels will still work in winter.

Do solar panels work in the snow?

Yes, solar panels can even work in the snow. If the panels have enough tilt, snow will simply slide off the modules as it melts. Once the panel is free of snow and receiving sunlight, it will start working to produce electricity again.

It is not even necessary to clean your panels to remove the snow. A study conducted by the Alberta Institute of Technology has found there is little need to clear the snow if your panels have enough tilt, clearing panels after snow events only attributed to a 3% increase in output.

Although snow is less of an issue for solar panels in Australia rather than in Europe or America, it still occurs in parts of Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales.

Winter brings with it more cloudy days

Depending on where you live in Australia, winter can bring with it more cloudy days. The good news is, solar panels still work on cloudy days, albeit output is lower.

Whether it be cold, cloudy or even snowy weather, your solar panels will work in winter conditions.

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