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Do Solar Panels Still Work in the Fall?

As the days get shorter and temperatures start to drop, a common question arises: do solar panels still work efficiently in the fall? The simple answer is yes. While solar production decreases in the fall and winter months, solar panels can still generate a significant amount of electricity to power your business.

How Solar Panels Work

To understand why solar panels work in the fall, it helps to first understand how they work. Solar panels contain photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity. When sunlight hits the panels, electrons in the cells get energized and flow, creating an electrical current. This electricity then flows into an inverter, which converts the DC current into usable AC electricity that powers your business.
The amount of electricity generated depends on how much sunlight hits the panels. More sunlight equals more electricity. In the sunny summer months, solar panels operate at peak capacity. But as the days get shorter in the fall and the sun sits lower in the sky, less direct sunlight reaches the panels, and electricity production decreases. However, solar panels can still generate ample electricity on shorter, overcast fall days.

Benefits of Solar in the Fall

There are several advantages to having solar panels in the autumn months:
1. Continued energy savings: While solar production drops in the fall, panels will still provide free electricity whenever sunlight hits them. Any amount of solar-generated power offsets the need to purchase electricity from the utility company. Those savings quickly add up.
2. Increased self-consumption: Solar energy produced during peak daylight hours when the sun is highest is often sent back to the grid if your business isn't using it. But as days get shorter in the fall, solar production aligns more closely with evening energy use, allowing you to self-consume more of the energy directly rather than sending it to the grid.
3. Preheating: Solar panels help capture heat from the sun's rays. As this heat builds up in panels on cool fall days, it warms the air underneath them. This preheats air before it enters your HVAC system, reducing furnace run times and energy consumption.
4. Lower temperatures boost production: While there is less sunlight overall in the fall and winter, colder outside air temperatures actually increase solar panel efficiency. Colder temperatures allow panels to operate more efficiently and can boost production by up to 25% compared to summer.
5. Net metering credits: Any excess solar electricity sent back to the grid in the fall earns net metering credits. These credits roll over month-to-month and can be used in the winter when solar production drops but electricity needs remain high.
6. Federal tax credits: The federal solar tax credit allows you to deduct 30% of your solar installation costs from your federal taxes, with no maximum. Installing panels in the fall lets you capitalize on this credit sooner.

Maximizing Fall and Winter Production

While solar panels still provide tangible benefits in the fall and winter, there are steps you can take to get even more out of your system during these months:
Clean panels regularly. Dust, dirt, snow, and debris blocking sunlight can reduce efficiency. Keeping panels clean ensures maximum exposure to available sunlight.
Adjust angle: Changing the tilt angle of panels to face more direct sunlight in winter can increase energy production. Your solar installer can advise you on optimal angles.
Remove shade. Trim back trees and shrubs that may obstruct sunlight from hitting panels as the sun sits lower in the autumn sky.
Consider tracking mounts. Moving mounts that follow the sun's path across the sky can increase solar harvesting in the fall and winter.
Store summer surplus. Use a solar battery like the Tesla Powerwall to store extra solar energy from sunnier times for later use.

The Takeaway

While solar panels produce their highest levels of electricity in the bright summer months, they still provide significant benefits throughout the fall and winter. As an investment in your business, solar delivers year-round energy savings, reduces dependence on fossil fuels, and lowers your carbon footprint. With proper siting and maintenance, your solar panels can continue providing clean, renewable power and financial rewards now and for many years to come.
Ready to go solar? GAIN Renewables specializes in commercial solar panel and battery storage installation throughout the Chicagoland area. Contact us at tad@GAINrenewables.com to learn more about the benefits of solar for your business.
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