This is the most common misconception regarding solar.
“Does solar work in the Pacific Northwest?” is a question we continue to receive, regardless of how many times we discuss it.
If you look outside on a cloudy, rainy, cold day, it’s difficult to visualize all the energy that the sun is creating. But here’s the thing: cold and cloudy places are actual ideal for solar.
Solar panels are less efficient in hot climates.
High temperatures cause technological malfunctions and panel swelling, leading to decreased energy output (up to 25%) and greater need for maintenance and replacements.
Dust is an issue in hot climates.
Dust buildup can also contribute to up to a 25% decrease in panel efficiency, requiring more frequent cleanings and maintenance. Frequent rainfall, however, keeps panels clean throughout the year and most systems in Western Washington only require annual cleanings.
Germany is a world leader in solar, and they receive an average of 17% less sunlight than the gloomiest region of the US: Western Washington. If they can do it so can we.
Net Metering is Key
During the long summer days when sunlight is high and usage is low, solar systems will produce an excess of power. This excess goes back into the utility grid and solar owners receive a 1:1 credit for every excess watt they produce. They can then redeem those credits in the dark winter months when sunlight is low and usage is high. This is an effort that has made solar possible for thousands of homes in Washington.
Look at the trees
It may seem like a simple concept, but it’s a reminder often overlooked when thinking about solar. As you probably learned in school, trees convert sunlight into energy through photosynthesis. While converting sunlight to electricity via photovoltaics may be a different process, the source is the same. Gloomy Western Washington is abundant with trees and greenery- a constant reminder of all the potential sunlight has in even the darkest corner of the United States.
For more information, please visit our Western Washington-specific article.