Renewable Energy for All Seasons

When talking about renewable energy generation, the seasonal nature of these energy sources often raises questions. Will a solar array provide enough power during periods of cloudy weather or during shorter winter days? Can a wind turbine be effective on days with little to no wind?


We know that renewable energy relies on environmental sources—sun and wind—so it’s variable by nature. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that renewable energy isn’t a viable option in all climates. When designing renewable energy systems, there are ways to ensure that organizations have the power needed to meet their energy requirements. With today’s environmental goals, every kilowatt-hour produced by sun and wind is a kilowatt-hour not produced by other, more carbon intensive methods.

Renewable Energy Production

Considering a renewable energy system starts with a basic understanding of renewable energy generation. Solar production peaks and ebbs by month and by day: there is more solar production mid-day and less in the morning and evening. Solar produces more energy in summer months, and even though it can drop substantially in winter, solar energy production does not go to zero.

Wind energy is also variable by month, with less predictable generation. Peaks and valleys are not necessarily summer and winter, so incorporating wind and solar together can often offset the variability of each.

The graph above is an actual example from the Midwest U.S. Both wind and solar are variable monthly, with solar peaks in July and wind peaks in August; this production will vary depending on yearly weather patterns. Even with this variability, solar and wind are still viable options for energy generation throughout the year. While each generation method ebbs and flows, neither reaches zero.

Assessing Energy Requirements

With any organizational energy project, it’s important to consider your energy goals; they are often related to cost, resilience, sustainability or a combination of all three. From there, assess your current energy usage. You can then look at potential energy usage reduction or conservation methods to prevent oversizing of a new generation system.

Energy assessments and system designs should take into consideration the variability of renewable energy. Systems can be sized with higher capacity to partly cover lower production months, along with battery energy storage and net metering to capture excess energy production in the higher months. This helps ensure that renewable options are sized properly, balancing seasonal peaks and valleys.

Incorporating renewable energy generation is an extremely viable option for most organizations. It can support your capacity needs, reduce energy costs and improve sustainability. With careful planning, you can achieve your energy goals today and well into the future, while supporting the environment.

Paul Walker is strategic segment leader with EnTech Solutions.