July 20, 2021

Do solar panels work in winter?

Solar energy output in Australia throughout winter is surprisingly high in some cities.

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Solar panels on the roofs of Australian homes in winter.

Solar performance in Australia during winter differs from city to city.

Many Australians believe cold weather negatively impacts the performance of solar panels.

It’s a common misunderstanding. Solar energy output is dependent on sunlight, not heat.

Solar panels and solar systems work in winter. While output may reduce in some areas during colder months, it never disappears. In some parts of Australia, solar works better in winter than summer.

Solar works in winter

While a typical solar system will perform better on some days than others, there are no days when zero solar energy is produced.

This includes the winter month of June, the worst month for solar output in most of Australia.

While July is the coldest month in most of Australia, June is the worst for solar energy output because of the winter solstice. This is the shortest day of the year with the shortest time available to generate solar energy.

Winter solar works wonders in Darwin

Darwin has a higher solar energy output in winter than summer because of tropical weather patterns and less variance in day length.

In the tropics, summer brings the big wet with cloudy skies and endless rain. While winter brings the big dry, clear skies and abundant sunshine.

Average daily generation of a north-facing rooftop solar system in June varies greatly between Australian cities. The following figures show June solar generation as a percentage of the annual daily average city by city.

Darwin: 112 percent

Brisbane: 75 percent

Sydney: 71 percent

Perth: 66 percent

Canberra: 60 percent

Adelaide: 57 percent

Melbourne: 57 percent

Hobart: 49 percent

The percentage of annual daily solar generation falls the further south the city and the further away from the equator.

Enhancing winter solar generation

The easiest way to enhance solar generation during winter months is to install a larger solar system.

A 10-kilowatt solar system will provide 52 percent more energy than a 6.6-kilowatt system. Adding more solar panels, using energy-efficient reverse cycle air-conditioner for heating and improving a home’s gaps, glazing and insulation will improve performance and lower consumption.

Increase solar panel tilt in winter

The panels may be adjusted to increase the amount of energy they produce in the winter. 

This is a great idea for off-grid systems installed on the ground. Rooftop solar panels, on the other hand, rarely make sense due to the high cost of tilt racks. 

North-facing panels will produce the most winter production at the angles shown below.

Darwin: 46 degrees

Brisbane: 53 degrees

Perth: 58 degrees

Adelaide: 58 degrees

Canberra: 59 degrees

Sydney: 60 degrees

Melbourne: 62 degrees

Hobart: 67 degrees

Invest in a solar battery

Installing a battery allows the storage of excess solar energy for use at times when the sun isn’t shining.

Quality solar batteries are becoming increasingly affordable. Especially with government rebates and incentives. Investing in a solar system with battery capacity allows for the easy addition of future storage capacity.

Before long solar batteries will be common on most solar systems.

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