Do solar panels work in the winter?

Here in South Carolina, we are used to plenty of sunshine and warm weather. Based on years of data from The National Climatic Data Center, South Carolina averages over 200 days of full and partial sunshine per year. That’s why the Palmetto state is ideal for solar energy production! 

But what does that mean for solar when the winter brings shorter days and less sun? To answer this, first it’s valuable to understand how solar panels work.

How solar panels create electricity

A solar energy system uses photovoltaic (or PV) modules that are installed on a roof or mounted in a yard. Each panel is made up of silicon cells which works as a semiconductor to generate electricity. When sunlight hits the system, it causes the electrons in these cells to move and generate an electrical current. Wiring inside the array captures this current and combines it with the power from the other solar cells. This DC electricity is then converted into AC electricity which feeds directly into your home to power things such as appliances and lights. Excess electricity is sent back to the utility grid. 


How solar works

Are solar panels still effective in winter months? 

As is the case with most electronics, solar panels actually function more efficiently in colder temperatures. Additionally, as the leaves fall off trees, it means less shade to block the panels. Snow really is the only deterrent for energy absorption, but it typically melts quickly and solar arrays are designed for snow to slide off easily. (Read more at Not that we see much snow around here, anyway! 

In fact, solar can be a fantastic option for energy production in the winter when your family stays indoors more often and starts to turn on the heat. You can hang up those holiday lights knowing that solar has your back! And because no fuel is burned in the process of converting solar energy into electricity, it offers a clean resource that truly is renewable. With the combination of the current federal and state tax credits, most solar installations pay themselves off in around 7 years.* 

Even with less direct sunlight hours in the winter months, homeowners and the environment can continue to reap the benefits all year round.



*for a standard 5kW solar system


Note: the federal state tax credit will be stepping down AGAIN. Find out more.