Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Start of Winter

It’s the official start of winter, the Winter Solstice. Sure, I celebrate Christmas, but I also honor the Solstice with appropriate ceremony. Make of that what you will. 

Of course, for those of us who get at least some of their energy from solar panels, it’s a big deal. The days are getting longer. It’s not going to make that much of a difference for a number of weeks, but it’s heading in the right direction. 

Then again, the cloudy days and snow on the solar panels have a direct influence too. There’s not much I can do about the clouds. As for the snow on the panels, I’ve a procedure that works fairly well. My panels are mounted on a steel pole out in the yard. I bundle up with my coat collar up and my mad bomber hat on. That’s to keep the snow from going down my neck. Then I walk over to the pole and give it a good swift kick with my size 15 boots. That jolt is usually enough to knock the snow free from the panels. 

While the longer days don’t seem to help that much in January, February can produce some of my best solar gains of the year. On a clear winter day the sun reflects off the snow and concentrates the solar energy. That’s why snow blindness is a real danger. Thanks to my solar panels that concentrated solar energy is turned into electricity. 

Solar electric panels are actually more efficient when cold -unlike solar thermal panels. Hot weather causes solar electric panels to experience something called electron scattering. In short, less of the solar energy gets turned into electrical energy. It’s counter intuitive, but that’s science for you. 

Longer days are just more cheerful. It’s a lot easier to get stuff done outside in the daylight. Even so, the darkness hasn’t stopped from doing things outside. With a headlamp and a high visibility jacket I’ll shovel snow or go for walks. Winter is way too long if you spend all of it inside.


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