Five Misconceptions About the Effects of Weather on Solar Power

October 29, 2021

If you live in Tasmania or Queensland or any other area of Australia where you get a lot of rainfall, or maybe in Victoria, New South Wales or again, in Tasmania, where you get frequent snowfall, you might think that your local weather is not ideal or conducive for solar panels. And you’d be forgiven for thinking this. It is almost logical to assume that rainy, solder, snowy areas, or areas with high winds, rough weather, and intense precipitation like hail and sleet are harmful for solar panels. And there is truth to this belief, but it is not entirely accurate. Today, we’re going to look at some major misconceptions about the effects of weather on solar panels. Some of the myths we’re going to look at here are widely believed and really engrained in the minds of many people, so it’s about time we set the record straight – not just about weather, but also about the durability of solar panels.

Misconception Number 1: Solar Panels Don’t Work Well in Cold Climates

This is without a doubt the single biggest fallacy known to photovoltaic technology and, bar none, the most prevalent misconception about solar technology. The truth is: solar energy depends on light and not on heat. Temperature has little to do with how solar energy systems function.

On the contrary, solar PV systems perform better at lower temperatures. As long as the sun is shining, solar PV systems will produce energy, regardless of the temperature. Colder temperatures, however, put a lot less strain on the electronic components of a solar panel. As solar panels get hotter and hotter, they actually begin to produce less and less energy from the same amount of sunlight. The ideal weather for solar panels is a cool chilly temperature with ample sunlight. It just so happens that constant exposure to sunlight tends to heat up the land considerably. There are ways to reduce the effects of heat on solar panel production, but for the most part, this is just the nature of solar technology. Sunlight produces heat and heat inevitably reduces performance.

Misconception 2: Snowy Areas are Not Great for Solar Panels

This misconception exists for two reasons:

  • Snow builds up and it can break the solar panel.
  • Freezing temperatures are bad for solar panels.

Both points are wrong. Solar panels and snow can and should coexist. The amount of energy a residence can extract from its solar panels in a snowy are depends less on the snow and more on the solar panels themselves and how they are installed.

Modern solar panels are designed to handle extreme variations in temperature. This concept is known as thermal cycling, and it ensures that the same panels can work efficiently in both hot and cold areas. Also, because solar panels absorb so much sunlight, they’re prone to heating up. This means that they’ll melt snow from a rooftop faster than regular tiles. And given the usual slant of solar panels, snow won’t build up on them. And the amount that does, will not break them. While microfractures can develop over decades of stress, modern solar panels are extremely resilient and can withstand the elements rather well.

Misconception 3: Wind can Make Solar Panels Fly, and Not in the Good Way

Not that there is a good way to make solar panels fly, but you get the gist. Good quality solar panels should have no trouble handling high speed winds. Just to be clear, any wind that can lift off your roof can probably take your solar panels too, but that is an extreme scenario. High speed winds won’t affect your solar panels any more than they affect any other part of your residence.

One of the benefits of going with a high-quality solar company and installer is that they’ll do their due diligence. Installations which are informed by local wind patterns are not likely to change zip codes when the wind goes a few knots above usual. Modern solar panels and their mounts are extensively tested against extreme wind loads. So, unless you’ve used string and duct tape to tie down your panels, you should be good against wind.

Misconception 4: Solar Panels Crack Easily

It’s easy to see where this one comes from. You have an intricate piece of technology stuck to your roof. It’s reasonable to think it’ll be rather delicate, and if your area gets a lot of hail, you might not want to waste $3000 on a fancy rooftile. But this is wrong. Solar panels wouldn’t be much use if they broke after every hailstorm. But logic aside, there is a simpler way to dispel this rumour: companies test for this.

Solar panel companies conduct tests for extreme weather, and they must prove that their panels can stand up to the elements. The certification in question is provided by Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) in the United States and many other companies. The long and short of it all is that solar panels are certified for diverse weather conditions.

Misconception 5: All Solar Panels Fare the Same in Extreme Weather

Unlike people, all solar panels are not created equal. Certifications only show that a solar panel manufacturer has met the minimum requirements required by law for large-scale production. They do not speak of the quality of the panels themselves. Something to keep in mind when choosing a high-quality panel is onsite testing. Onsite testing means that a solar panel company conducts its own tests aside from those required by law. This is usually a good indicator that a company takes their quality seriously. In the same vein, the type of tests conducted also give a good idea about how well they’ll perform in adverse conditions. Types of tests would include tests against hail, rain, wind, and snow. Some of the more modern panels use a shingled design to reduce stresses on the panels and ensure that they do not develop microfractures as quickly.

The final thing to keep in mind is that it is often best to ask a lot of questions. Solar panels are not inexpensive by any means, and if you’re going to be investing in something this expensive and long lasting, you really want to get your money’s worth.