Utah Weather Pattern’s Impact on Solar Energy

Utah Residential Solar
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Impact of Utah weather on solar

The weather has a lot to do with how a solar array is designed. Here are some ways that solar panels are affected by Utah weather.

How Weather Affects Usage Patterns Within the Home

Weather impacts both our energy use and our panel productivity. The ironic part is that both are affected in different ways.

This, however, doesn’t need to be the case. Taking a look at how solar works helps aline consumption practices with solar production.

Solar Power Generation: Summer Vs. Winter

In Utah, good weather draws people to the mountains. Fishing, hiking, swimming and camping calls the people of Utah away from their homes. This is great, but the problem is that these are some of the best producing months for solar.

On the other side of the coin, when the weather takes a turn for the worst people tend to stay indoors. This, however, is also when solar panels are at their worst.

This why PV designers account for yearly electric usage and weather patterns. They have to account for both when you use energy and when energy is produced.

To balance the difference many utilities offer credits for excess power production. You can also, store your excess solar production with a solar backup option.

Solar Panel Output Vs Time of Day

Another major component of solar production is the average solar radiation. This is the average kWh of energy that an area receives. In Utah, the average tilt at latitude yields about 5.51 kWh/m2/day.

What Time of Day are Solar Panels Most Efficient

Daily prime time for solar production is important. It helps solar producers determine when to do high energy actives.

Solar production is at its peak, in the middle of the day, when the sun is highest in the sky. These hours are typically between 11 am and 4 pm.

Running appliances like the washing machine during this window of time will increase energy savings. Taking a lunch break, or setting a delay timer may make this doable for people that are seldom home.

Factors Affecting the Performance of Utah Solar Panels

Several things go into what affects the performance of a panel. When designing a solar array, all these factors are taken into consideration. These can also help you to better compare different solar panel brands and types against each other.

How is Solar Energy Related to Weather

One of the main concerns that people have is the weather’s effect on solar panels. In Utah, residents experience both extremes with some mild weather in between. Let’s take a look at how these weather conditions impact panel performance.

How Temperature Affect Solar Panels

One of the main concerns in Utah is the cold winter months. Utah is known for getting buckets of snow.  And if you live closer to the mountains you can expect to never see the ground until spring.

The truth of the matter, however, is that as long as you keep your panels mostly clear of snow they will function. In fact, cooler temperatures help prevent energy loss from overheated panels. As long as the sky and panels are clear they will convert the solar rays hitting them into direct current.

The best way to clean your panels in the winter is a roof rake with a rag on the end. Roof rakes allow you to pull the majority of the snow off your panels from the ground.

Putting a rag on the end is optional, but it will ensure that your panels won’t get scratched by the rake. As the panels start converting light into current the rest of the snow will melt off.

Bad Weather Days’ Effect on Panels

Regardless of what time of year some days are miserable. Extreme weather can decrease your panel production.

Hot temperatures can be counter-productive when they cause the panels to heat up. Extremely cloudy, rainy or days with high inversion block the sun from hitting the panels. Your area’s average off days in a year are taken into account when an array is designed.

The good news is that Utah has an average of 125 clear days per year. This is about 30 percent of the year. This isn’t bad when you consider that the best state for solar is only 15 percent better.

Solar PV Efficiency Losses

Weather plays a considerable role in panel efficiency. However, the type of solar panels and setup determines how much impact the weather will have on the panel. Taking a look at what helps a solar panel perform can help you critically think about the weather’s affect on your panels.

Solar Panel Wavelength Efficiency

Solar panels are dependent on short wavelengths from the sun, not the heat it produces. The wavelength that most solar panels use respond to is ultraviolet.

For a panel to produce energy these wavelengths need to be absorbed by the solar cells. They need to excite the electrons in the solar panels enough to knock them loose from their natural orbit.

Free electrons collect near the PN-junction of the solar cell—increasing its voltage. This voltage is the first step to creating a direct current which is then inverted and used in your home.

Some materials are easier to push the electrons out of than others. It is for this reason that the width, reflection and type of semiconducting material used in the panel is important.

If you have a panel that balances these three aspects it won’t matter if there are clouds outside. Your panel will still be able to absorb the wavelengths coming through the clouds.

Solar Panel Efficiency Location

The location of your panel can also be a determining factor. If you have panels that don’t face the sun the majority of the year you will be sorely disappointed. It won’t matter if you live in the perfect spot if your panels aren’t well placed.

Solar Panel Maximum Operating Temperature

When a panel starts to get hot, it is because the molecules are moving too fast. When molecules move too fast many electrons escape as heat. This decreases the number of electrons on the PN-junction which decreases voltage.

If you purchase a panel that has a lower temperature coefficient you won’t have to worry about this. Another help is if your panels have enough gap from the roof for air to flow around it. If you live in Utah you get both extremes in temperature so finding a panel that can handle this is vital.

The Best Months for Solar Generation in Utah

Every month in Utah looks a bit different. When designing your array, PV designers account for normal weather in your area. One of the things that is most important is the average peak sun hours that you receive throughout the year.

Solar Production by Month

Each month is going to look a little different. This is because the sun is out longer during some months then it is others. Solar production relies heavily on the sun. Looking at how much sun Utah normally gets will gives an idea of how much solar a typical array would produce.

What Time of Year do Solar Panels Work Best?

Your panel may say that you will produce 300 watts per hour. However, if you don’t have optimum sun it won’t make a difference.

In Utah November through Feb has between 3 to 5 hours of  peak sunlight hours. This however is increased to between 5 and 7 hours from March to October.

Solar panels are at their best in the fall and spring. This is because the sun is out for longer periods of time and it isn’t as hot outside.

The problem is that if you want to get the most out of your array it needs to be paired with cooler temperatures. When the ambient temperature is on the cooler side electrons are less likely to turn into heat. This means you will have less lost power—increasing your panel efficiency.

Go Solar Group’s Utah Solar Calculator

Now that you know how the weather influences panel efficiency, you are better prepared to look at your options. Go Solar Group has a Utah solar savings calculator that will help you determine how much you could save. If you want an estimate for your home you can ask for a solar assessment.

An assessment will give you a better picture picture. It tells you how much solar would cost, how much you would save, how many panels you need and where they would be.

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