UK Weather and Solar Panels
Author: Amy Catlow
Published: Monday, 26 September 2011
The word ‘solar’ is a clue that solar panels require sunlight to operate. Solar panels produce more electricity during summer months because of the longer days and stop producing at night – no surprises there. But how do the diverse weather conditions, so common to the UK, affect solar panel productivity?
In the UK we get it all - rain, cloud, pleasant sunny spells, hail, sleet, snow and even blistering sunshine. But these varied conditions may not affect solar panel output in the way you imagine.
Cloud does reduce output but not completely, as solar energy can penetrate cloud and some electricity will still be generated. The rain that often accompanies the cloud isn’t as bad as you may think because it has the two-fold benefit of keeping the panels cool and free from the build up of dust and dirt that can block out the light. Both help to keep output up.
Snow is an interesting one. Heavy snowfall is accompanied by cloud cover which has a diverse affect on solar panel output. But when the cloud disperses, provided the snow isn’t lying too thick on the panels, snowy conditions can work very well. Diffused light is able to penetrate thinner layers of snow. You also get more light reflected back from the thicker snow on the ground and the snow keeps the panels cool. These are all positive conditions for solar output.
When it comes to our changeable climate the UK’s tendency for sunny days interspersed with annoying showers can be great for solar panels. It gives the panels what it wants most - sunshine and cool conditions because if temperatures exceed 30 degrees Celsius, efficiency can drop by 10 percent. Cool is good.