News and Announcements

Empowering you through education. Solar industry news from your local South Carolina solar provider and beyond.

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 energysage.com) 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. 

Understanding an electric bill after going solar

solar meter

What are kilowatt hours anyway?

In order to understand solar energy production, it’s helpful to have a grasp on how it is measured. The size of a solar system is often described in kilowatts (kW). Watts are a unit of power that we use to express output of energy that the system is producing.  

One kilowatt = 1,000 watts

So, kilowatts measure power while kilowatt hours measure energy usage and production over a set period of time. This is how your utility company determines how much electricity to bill you for. All the appliances in your home have a rating based on how many watts of power they use.

When sunlight is captured in a solar array, it produces electricity measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). One kWh is produced when a kW of power production is sustained for one hour. 

Net Metering

Net metering is a billing mechanism that allows residential customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the utility grid. When your solar system is installed, you will also get a bi-directional meter that will measure both the electricity you are purchasing from your utility and the excess electricity you are sending back to the grid. 

net metering bell curve solar vs the grid

Utility power usage from the grid drops when solar is on site

You are charged only for your “net” energy use from that meter; which is the electricity you purchased minus what your system sent to the grid. If your solar system generates more kilowatt hours (kWh) during daylight hours than you purchase in a given month, you receive a 1:1 credit on your account for those excess kWh. 

When your usage is low, like a Wednesday afternoon when everyone is at work, surplus solar production is sent to the utility for the same price you pay for it, reducing your bill, and saving you money.  The utility can then utilize this power, sending it to your neighbors to support their needs – selling it to them on the same power lines you are using!

Results! 

real life solar customer electric bill

What will your particular electric bill look like after going solar? That will depend on a few aspects, including your particular solar system’s energy production, your local electric rate and your household’s energy consumption. When assessing your home for solar, a goal is to build an array that will generate as close to 100% of your household’s energy usage as possible. This is dependent on additional key factors such as roof space, budget and tax liability. Our experts will help you create a financial equation that balances your electric bill and energy needs. Then, it is as simple as adding up the thousands of dollars you’re not spending over the years by using solar, especially as energy prices continue to increase.

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Residential solar customer testimonial: A journey on Edisto

Southern Current customer has a truly unique story about going solar that began over 30 years ago on a piece of land… 

Catherine and her husband bought 10 acres on Edisto Island back in 1984. They lived on their house boat while they single-handedly cleared the land. They eventually converted the same house boat into their home. Starting out, they didn’t even have air conditioning, heating or plumbing, but Catherine kept thinking about installing solar panels.

“I just always wanted solar panels,” she says.

She received her first quote for the project back in the 1980’s. But, it was just not in the cards at the time, given their budget. As time went on and the cost of solar became more affordable, Catherine found us. After 33 years, Southern Current was able to be part of making Catherine’s dream come true. We were recommended by locals as a trustworthy source that “comes and gets the job done.

At the time her system was installed, Catherine’s husband had fallen ill and was spending most of his time on their porch enjoying the view of his favorite tree. Because she did not want to impede his view, she chose an area in her yard for a ground-mounted solar system that was not ideal for energy production.

But even given some shading, she has found that her bills are a mere fraction of what they used to be. Typically she only pays the utility fee. 

And the financial reward is not even the reason she wanted to go solar. Catherine truly believes in sustainability and renewable energy for the future. Her goal was to leave a legacy for her children that gave back to the Earth.

“The real payoff is what are you doing for the environment”

Catherine believes in doing more than just recycling so that “things go right back to the way they were…it’s a perfect cycle.” After her husband’s passing, Catherine and her children still live on the property. She takes pride in her solar system and sees it as so much more than a financial payoff. 

“It was time. I had waited a long time.”

When you’re ready to go solar, we are here!
Contact us to learn more about the solar solutions we offer.