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Solar Arrays in Michigan: What to expect in the winter
We all love to look at our solar array production via the handy online applications on our smart phones. But be forewarned: you may drive yourself crazy if you are expecting "normal" production in the Michigan Winters. That is because the Earth has tilted us away from the sun.
In the winter (November through February +/-) the sun's rays have to penetrate the atmosphere at an increased angle, thus go through more atmosphere - dropping solar production significantly. The Earth's tilt also means the days are shorter and the average hours of sunlight are decreased. Add in the thicker cloud cover on a high number of days per month and it is understandable how Michigan solar arrays only make 15% of the annual production over the entire four months of winter.
There are some winter days your array won't even turn on. Many other days the array just appears to be flaky on your monitoring application. Don't worry - this is all normal. So, if your system just isn't acting right or producing what you were hoping for, don't worry. When we size an array - all of that is taken into consideration. It is normal!
That being said, to maximize your system’s energy production there are a couple of things you can do:
Please know we do our best to monitor our hundreds of customers' systems through the portal and will alert you if we find an issue that needs correcting. If you note something odd yourself and have questions, please reach out to the Service Department at (248)923-3456, opt 2, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the form, above.
- After a large snowfall, brush off and expose a portion of each panel. The panels will begin to produce energy and warm up melting the rest of the snow off the panels. For large or roof-mounted arrays you may want to use a roof snow broom/rake to remove the snow. If the roof rake has a metal end, duct tape a towel around it to protect the glass on the solar panels so they don’t get scratched or cracked when removing the snow. There are also telescoping snow brooms available online that auto dealers use to brush snow off cars that won’t scratch your solar panels.
* Note: Solar panels work best when they are cold. So, if a period of very cold weather is expected, you will see a large benefit from removing any snow from the panels to maximize your energy production. The best hourly production you will have all year is when it is at or below zero!
- Familiarize yourself with the monitoring portal for your solar array. Checking the portal occasionally throughout the year will help you to see if any panel is under-producing for any reason other than a known item like a tree, chimney, plumbing vents or another roof pitch that shades it part of the day. If something like a small branch with leaves have blown onto a panel, it will be more obvious if you are familiar with the normal production patterns. If you do see a panel under-producing and nothing is obvious on the panel look for trees that have grown, or a limb now shading more than you would like. This helps you determine which limbs to selectively prune.
***NOTE: You do not have to brush the snow off, the system will be fine. Only do this if it is safe to do so! The system/monitoring portal does not know the reason you are not producing power, or producing a small amount of power, is there is snow covering it. So it will send an alert. Once the snow is gone if you still have an alert we can then remotely diagnose the issue. But no diagnosis can be done when there is snow covering the panel. Only 10% of your annual solar power produced is during the short overcast days of winter. Your production estimates are based upon there being time in the winter when snow will be covering the panels.
Please know we do our best to monitor our hundreds of customers' systems through the portal and will alert you if we find an issue that needs correcting. If you note something odd yourself and have questions, please reach out to the Service Department at (248) 923-3456, opt 2, by email at email@example.com or via the form, above.