That’s true: solar panels are the gift that keeps on giving and giving. Maybe you already have solar panels on your roof. Maybe you’re thinking about putting solar panels on your roof. But, imagine if you could put solar panels on mom and dad’s roof. Imagine if you could surprise your son or daughter with solar panels on their roof.
Due to your gift, for decades to come, they’ll have little or no electric bill to pay from month to month. Maybe you were thinking of buying them a car. That’s a wonderful gift. But, unlike a solar energy system, the purchase of a car won’t enjoy the benefits of government incentives to defray some of the costs. The solar panels will.
Within approximately five years, the savings from the solar panels will come close to equaling your investment to put them up on the roof. And, there’s another advantage to solar panels over a car as a gift for the holidays.
Solar panels require virtually no maintenance. They sit up on the roof quietly producing electricity. Their patience and dedication to chewing up an electric bill are awe-inspiring. From up on the roof, solar panels also add to the resale value of your loved one’s home.
The only real question about the solar energy system you give them is what they’ll do with all that money they would have sent to ComEd or some other utility provider. While they’re saving that money on electric bills, they’ll have reason to think of you throughout the year. Yes, throughout the year – those solar panels are capturing UV rays and transforming them into electricity even in the winter.
Yes, solar energy production will drop in October but don’t panic; your panels collect energy year-round and will catch up next spring.
If you have solar panels on the roof of your home or office, you’ve probably enjoyed a productive summer. In an average year in Northern Illinois, we enjoy nearly 200 days of sunny or partly sunny days. Your solar panels eat it up. But, a higher percentage of those days are in the summer months.
In the winter, on average, 46 percent of the time between sunrise and sunset will have clear skies. That means that, out of 91 days of winter, we can expect 42 days with clear skies. When it comes to collecting solar energy, the solar panels on the roof don’t care if it’s 28-degrees below zero or 110-degrees outdoors. Sun is sun and sunlight creates solar energy.
The scenario above presumes that 42 of the daylight hours this coming winter will offer optimal sunlight for creating solar energy. That doesn’t mean the solar panels will sit passively on the roof the rest of the time.
Even without a clear sky, solar panels work. On a cloudy day, the solar panels will still collect energy they simply won’t do so as effectively. Depending on how thick the cloud cover is, the solar panels may only produce 25 percent of the solar energy they would on a clear day.
Winter is generally cloudier than summer. This, as Weatherman Tom Skilling has explained, warm weather tends to build taller cumulus clouds that grow vertically. In the winter, with colder weather, “condensation and cloudiness tend to be horizontally stratified, resulting in widespread and long-lasting overcasts.”
So, yes, your solar energy production will fall in the winter as a natural byproduct of more consistent cloud cover. But, your solar panels will continue to work and will catch up again next Spring.
If you’re concerned about it, you can try reducing your electrical usage in the winter. Unplug unused electronics. Check the refrigerator and adjust the temperature if it’s unnecessarily set too cold. Use LED holiday decorations. Insulate your electric water heater. If you have electric heat, you can seal your windows and doors, lower the thermostat and wear a sweater.
No matter what you do, don’t worry. Weather will warm again. The sunny days will increase next Spring and Summer.
Solar panels do magic up there on the roof turning the rays of the sun into electric energy. It’s amazing. And, it’s only getting better. Better?! Yes, better. There are improvements to solar panels making them more efficient all the time.
The modern solar panel was introduced in 1954 as a product of Bell Laboratory. Three of the company’s scientists – Calvin Fuller, Daryl Chapin and Gerald Pearson – used silicon to create a source for collecting solar energy. It was a stable and reliable source of energy but it was hardly efficient. And it was expensive – really expensive.
Congressional act promotes development
In 1978, Congress enacted the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act and the Energy Tax Act. This was the government’s first step towards promoting and encouraging the development and increased use of solar energy. As a result, by the 1990s, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed a photovoltaic (PV) panel, using gallium indium phosphide and gallium arsenide, that achieved an incredible efficiency rating of 30 percent. Unfortunately, it was not a reasonable panel for mass production.
In 2000, Sandia Laboratories improved the efficiency of solar panels with the development of an inverter that converts the Direct Current (DC) of solar panels to the Alternating Current (AC) that is used in homes. The advancement launched the solar panel industry as a serious alternative to complete reliance on the electricity generated by utility companies.
Solar panels today generally produce more than 20 percent efficiency ratings. While companies developing solar panels are consistently seeking to improve on efficiency, improvements to solar panels are already at hand in terms of mass production. Hand-in-hand, with mass production, the costs of solar panels has come down dramatically.
Panels today are lighter and easier to install. There are also improvements in the inverters, including hybrid string inverters and microinverters that transform the energy from DC to AC for each individual panel.
The gist is that, as solar panels continue to improve, we have already seen vast improvements to solar panels over what was available before. This is good news for reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and it’s good news for homeowners and businesses that want to save on energy costs while reducing their dependence on utilities.