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Solar for businesses in Winter: Do the savings stack up?

While many of us rug up and hunker down for another blustery winter, across Australia and New Zealand our installation teams are just getting started on some of their busiest days ahead. Solar energy is often accompanied by images of vast summer skies and hot, tropical locales, but that’s only half the picture when it comes to the reality of what - and how - your commercial solar system functions.

If you think solar isn’t saving you through the coldest seasons, let’s bust a couple of myths, starting with how solar panels function.

Myth 1: Solar panels do not work during Winter because it is too cold.

False. While we might associate heat with light as humans, this is not the case for solar panels and systems. Panels work by light alone, and as pieces of technical equipment, keeping cool can help them function at their best. This means that while winter days see less sunlight than summer ones, direct and indirect sunlight still hit the panel and allow it to function. In fact, solar panels significantly reduce in performance once the temperature exceeds 35 degrees

Myth 2: Solar panels do not work during cloudy or overcast days.

Not necessarily. While cloud cover certainly reduces the amount of sunlight that hits your panels, there is still a percentage that can get through and power your system. So while your system output is lower than a clear day, it is still able to produce power. If you’re ever curious, your Choice Energy system provides you with access to see how your system is performing on demand.

Likewise, we are able to make recommendations on panels that function best in overcast conditions. So not only are you getting a solar system designed specifically for your business needs, you're also getting one designed specifically for your location.

Cloudy Solar for Business

Myth 3: You need battery storage to make a solar system worthwhile in Winter.

False and, if anything, backwards! Battery storage allows you to store energy generated by your system during the day for use at other times. A lower winter output actually means you are more likely to be using your energy as you are generating it, reducing the likelihood that you would need battery storage to make your solar system worthwhile. This means your system is perfectly qualified for function throughout winter without a battery, reducing your costs.

Now, let’s crush a few myths about installations and design.

Myth 4: Installing solar during the ‘solar season’ reduces your costs

Here’s the theory: If I wait until Spring/Summer to install my solar system, I won’t be making repayments on my system until it is working, so I am better off waiting through winter before acting.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Safely and properly installed solar systems require permission to go ahead, due to their connection to the grid (which keeps you connected to grid energy when you need it, and allows you to feed your excess energy back into the grid). Getting these permissions can take time depending on the size of your system, and for larger systems this can mean many weeks and even months. This process is essential for safety and cannot be bypassed.

As a result, organising your solar system through Winter and Spring could mean a fully installed and functioning system that makes the most of the ‘solar season’, rather than one held up by an essential part of the process. Waiting for the sun is simply not worth the risk. And as we mentioned in Myth 1 and 2, your solar system begins to save you money from day 1, no matter the season!

Solar for Business Installation

Myth 5: A bigger system is a BETTER system

False. More panels does not always mean more benefit when it comes to commercial solar for a business. If you have a solar system without battery storage and you are producing energy in excess to what you can use, some of this energy might be able to return to you as a credit due to your feedback tariff (Where you are rewarded for putting your excess solar energy back into the grid), but it is likely a majority will be wasted.

When we design a commercial solar system, we focus instead on balancing the return of what you produce with the system, with what the system will cost you. A system that produces $5,000 worth of energy when you only utilise $2,000 worth does not put you in front, especially as that larger system likely cost you far more than a system that would balance your needs.

Related reading: Choosing solar panels for your business

In summary:

  • Solar systems are still capable of producing energy year round, as they depend on light and not heat in order to work.

  • Though cloud cover reduces sunlight, solar panels are still able to derive some light through light to mild cover.

  • You do not need a battery as part of your solar system in order to benefit from commercial solar in winter

  • Organising your feasibility and solar system design in Winter puts you ahead as it takes into account a potential waiting period and makes you more likely to have your system up and running when solar output is at its highest in summer

  • Biggest is not always best, as the system size is dependent on your needs.

As a holistic energy firm, Choice Energy is able to not only size and design a commercial solar system in alignment to your needs, but goes above and beyond to offer a range of complementary services to ensure your system is part of a larger energy optimisation strategy. Start your journey to lower energy bills today by calling 1300 304 448 or contact us via our website here.

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