By its very nature, Arizona’s Valley of the Sun is ideally suited for solar power. Our cloud-free skies and 300+ days of sunshine a year deliver exactly what your photovoltaic array needs to generate lots of clean electricity. The logical assumption is that solar panels should do well in the heat. After all, sunlight and heat go hand-in-hand. The more sunlight, the more energy your solar panels will produce.
But while it may seem a bit counter-intuitive, the fact is that heat can have an impact on solar panel efficiency. It’s true that most photovoltaic modules deliver maximum efficiency at a moderate temperature of around 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, the whole story is a bit more nuanced. Let’s dig in and talk a bit about how heat impacts your system’s production, and what you can do about it.
Heat is Different from Sunlight
To understand why higher temperatures can impact your system, let’s first have a look at how solar panels actually work. Basically, solar panels utilize the sun’s light energy in the form of photons. When these photons hit your solar panel, they essentially dislodge the electrons within the panel’s atoms. These electrons then move through the panel’s circuits, and it’s this movement that produces an electric current.
One of the factors that impact how much power your panels generate is the amount of energy these little electrons carry with them when they’re dislodged by the sun’s photons. This is directly impacted by the electron’s original state. On a cool day, the electrons exist in a relaxed, resting state, and are energized by the photons. This energizing, from a relaxed state to a high energy state, produces a high current.
In higher temperatures, these electrons react somewhat differently. Heat within the panels already energizes the electrons, which means they won’t pick up as much energy when dislodged by photons. So, while your panels might get the same amount of sunshine on a 70-degree day as on a 110-degree day, they will produce more energy on a cooler day. In fact, in very extreme heat your system can actually lose up to 5-10% of its efficiency.
Here are 4 Ways To Reduce the Effects of Heat
With temperatures continuing to rise almost everywhere, making the right decisions before you install your solar panels can make a huge difference in your system’s efficiency, longevity, and total savings over the life of your system. Let’s take a quick look at the most critical considerations.
1. Use Good Installation Practices
There are a number of ways to help mitigate the effects of heat on your system. Installing panels with ample space underneath them will allow for much better airflow. This is also an important consideration when considering panel-level micro-inverters. Micro-inverters are tiny computers with sensitive circuity that sit underneath each panel. These devices can be susceptible to extreme heat. Opting for a more traditional string inverter configuration may be a more durable option where you live. When possible, locate inverters and combiners in shaded areas to help reduce early wear and tear from direct sun exposure.
2. Choose the Right Solar Panels
Not surprisingly, selecting the right brand and type of panels is probably the most important factor in planning a system that will perform consistently in Arizona’s extreme climate. The amount of heat your panel is engineered to handle will vary depending on the temperature coefficient of the panels you choose. Different brands have different efficiency ratings, which determine how well the panels will perform in higher temperatures. And while all-black panels are often preferred for their aesthetic appeal, some lighter colors panels benefit from their ability to reduce heat absorption.
3. Choose the Right Solar Provider
In many cases, a system that is ideal for a cooler climate is not the best choice for our Southwest desert heat. As one of Arizona’s largest and most experienced solar providers, we know what works best here in our own backyard. This is the perfect example where shopping local has a direct benefit to your ROI.
Your Sun Valley Solar Solutions consultant will work with you to calculate not only your average monthly energy usage but also factor in the average summer temperatures and the temperature coefficient of the panels you choose.
There’s no question that Arizona’s scorching summers can have an impact on the system you choose and its overall performance. For more insight into how Sun Valley Solar Solutions can help you to plan and install a solar system that can deliver you the most savings all year long, contact us for a free solar quote.