Don't believe it? It's true.
You don’t have to live in Phoenix or Florida to have a successful solar energy production system. The worst of any northern state’s winter only lasts about three months, so the days of low sunlight and heavy snow are limited.
And it’s a fact that the farther away from the equator you are, the longer your daylight during summer. So while there may be more cloudy days in the winter months, thus generating slightly less power during that time of the year, the decreased energy production is made up with more sunshine in the summer.
A great example for solar energy production, and how northern climates don’t affect it as much as you’d think, is Germany. The sunshine levels there are very similar to Alaska’s. For over a decade, this northern European country has led the world in solar panel installations. According to a 2014 study by the Brattle Group - “Solar Energy Support in Germany A Closer Look” - and a report from the German Fraunhofer Institute - “Electricity production from solar and wind in Germany in 2014” - solar energy makes a significant contribution to their national energy mix.
The very best meteorological recipe for solar energy production? Sunny, cold winter weather.
Like most electronics, solar panels work more efficiently in cold conditions than in hot. The panels will produce more power for each hour of sunshine during the short days of a cold winter. And snow problems are minimal since solar panels are designed to bear a certain amount of weight, they are tilted at an angle so snow will slide off, and they can be brushed off if it accumulates.
So, as you travel south and closer to the equator, solar energy collection increases because of the stronger and more sustained sunlight, but the efficiency of the system is degraded because of the higher heat-stress on the system. As you move further north, towards where Alaska and Germany lay, the cooler weather helps the efficiency of the solar energy systems, but the production decreases due to less sustained sunlight.
The prime location for solar energy production on an industrial scale would be a place that has both strong and sustained sunlight during the summer season, and a cool and largely bright winter season. So, while Florida may be the Sunshine State, North Carolina’s coordinates are optimal to make us the solar state.