We got sunshine (power) even on cloudy days

Winter is a wonderful time to harvest solar power in western Michigan.

Despite reduced daylight hours, solar panels operate more efficiently in cooler temperatures. Biting winter winds can also help increase efficiency by ventilating heat away from panels.

Snow is excellent at reflecting sunlight, so the photovoltaic cells can capture more energy from the light reflected onto the panel by the surrounding snow.

And in the winter, our deciduous trees are dormant and leafless, exposing the facilities to more sunlight. Even on cloudy days, solar panels are able to generate energy.

While considering solar energy, many variables can contribute to your success. To help you navigate these variables, here are some of the many resources available:

For anyone who does not have a home suitable for personal installations but still wants to encourage solar energy supply, community solar projects may be the best bet.

Following:Local homeowners and utility companies talk about switching to solar power at home

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Utility companies can strategically place solar panels along the grid where the most can benefit. Many of these systems are already in place, ready for consumers to purchase for a portion of their products. Others work with power companies to reach a wider audience.

Consumers Energy, whose goal is to meet customers’ energy needs with 90% clean energy resources by 2040, has been sourcing from a 3-megawatt solar garden at Grand Valley State University since April 2016, between others, and will soon contract with a 26-megawatt facility that began construction at Pullman in September 2021.

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Although solar power is not a completely zero-emission system, we can continually reduce its impact. The Solar Futures Study, released in September 2021 and conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy, states, “Technological breakthroughs and greater participation in recycling and the circular economy will maximize the use of recoverable materials. . This will bring benefits in terms of energy and material security, improved social and environmental outcomes, and new opportunities for jobs and national manufacturing.

Michigan and nationwide solar power generation has room to grow. Michigan currently provides 0.29% of solar energy, while nationally, 3% of our energy is produced from solar technologies.

With aggressive cost reductions, supportive policies, and large-scale grid integration, the United States could produce 40% of our solar power nationwide by 2035.

The US Energy Information Administration predicts that nearly half of new utility-scale power generation capacity added in 2022 will come from solar power, a total of 21.5 out of 46.1 gigawatts.

— Sarah Irvin is a naturalist with ODC Network and has a bachelor’s degree in earth science and environmental studies.

About this series

The MiSustainable Holland column is a collection of community voices sharing updates on local sustainability initiatives.

Theme of this week’s sustainability framework:

smart energy: We must use both conservation and efficiency measures to manage our resources to provide access to reliable and cost-effective energy.

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