Maximize the performance of your solar system in winter

A common misconception about solar energy is that solar power systems do not work in the winter season.

Maximize the performance of your solar system in winter

Alberta, BC, and most places in Canada typically see snowy conditions from October to April—and sometimes even through to May—which may lead to two questions: are solar panels worth it in Canada, and how much maintenance is required?

Solar energy production is decreased during the winter months due to snow coverage, however this effect is minor on an annual basis as most solar energy is generated during the spring and summer months. The NAIT Alternative Energy Program conducted a study which found snow coverage only results in roughly 5% annual energy loss due to snow coverage although this number will fluctuate from house to house.  

Tips for maximizing the benefits of solar energy in winter

Despite there being minimal effects caused by winter conditions, there are still some general maintenance efforts you can make to ensure your solar system is working at optimal performance throughout the winter months and that you are maximizing the benefits of your installation. Please note, Kuby Energy does not recommend clearing snow from roof top modules to achieve this, as the added energy generation is not worth the additional safety risk. Here are our top two tips:

  1. Try to reduce your home’s overall energy usage and consumption  

Solar systems are still able to convert sunlight throughout the winter, however because the days get darker faster, this means that there is less solar irradiance for your system to work with overall. With your system producing less energy than in summertime, it's worth considering reducing your energy consumption during the winter to avoid paying high electricity bills. While turning down the thermostat by even a few degrees is a great way to save energy, there are other ways to do this and stay warm. For example, you can switch to LED lights, unplug unused devices (these are called phantom loads and draw energy even when not in use), and be smart about your furniture placement making sure your vents aren’t blocked to allow better airflow. However, every home looks a little different, and if you want a more comprehensive overview of how you can reduce energy consumption and loss in your house, you can get an energy audit. Energy audits are required if you want to receive the federal solar rebates.  

  1. Capitalize on solar incentives  

There are numerous ways you can benefit from the available incentives and rebates to ensure maximum efficiency even in winter. Here in Alberta, electricity production and consumption are metered by the electrical retailer and credited on your bill through something known as Net Billing. This credit may be rolled over from month to month, so if you generate more solar energy than you consume during the summer, you can then draw from that credit during the winter when there is less sunlight. Additionally, there are incentives related to micro-generation that can be taken advantage of. Homes and businesses with solar installations <5MW (1 Megawatt = 1,000 kW), will have their imported and exported energy monitored and appropriately credited to their monthly power bill. Any excess solar energy is rolled over to the next month and used during the less sunny months. For comprehensive details, read the full micro-generation regulation in Alberta’s Electric Utilities Act.

More information about the available grants and incentives for solar installation is available in its own blog. For the most up to date information and case-by-case assessment, contact us directly.

A surprising fact about solar systems:  

Many people don’t know that cold weather conditions can improve the performance of solar power systems. Solar panel efficiency is significantly higher at –25°C than at +45°C, despite hot weather being more closely associated with solar irradiance. The reason for this is that colder temperatures reduce the resistance in conductors, allowing a more efficient system.  

Questions, comments or concerns? We would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Hit the buttons below to contact us/get a free solar quote or to read more articles.

Contact Us/Free QuoteRead More on Solar