I came across a list of the annual % of sunshine that 175 cities get over the course of the year. It’s at the website of the National Climate Data Center. The sunniest city in the U.S. is Yuma, Arizona where the sun shines 90% of the time. The cloudiest was Juneau, Alaska, which gets just 30% sunshine.
Grand Rapids is tied for 162nd. We actually get LESS sunshine than Seattle (Sea-Tac Airport) and Sault Ste. Marie MI. Grand Rapids is especially cloudy from late fall to mid-winter. Last November, Grand Rapids got a whopping 9% of possible sunshine. In December (usually our cloudiest month) we had 13% of possible sunshine…in January 20% and in February 17%.
I have solar panels on the south side of my house…simple system, black metal panels with glass over the top. There’s a space a few inches in-between. The sun hits the black panels and they warm up. They heat the air between the panels and the glass. When a thermostat reaches a certain temperature (80 degrees, perhaps), a simple fan turns on and blows the warm air into the house. I turn it off during the summer.
However, it doesn’t work when the sun is not shining…doesn’t work until the sun climbs high enough in the AM to warm the panels and turns off well before the sun sets. The vast majority of the time…my solar panels are as idle as Comerica Park is going to be during the World Series.
Now, if you were going to pick a place for a solar “farm”…where would you put it? Michigan? Or someplace that gets more sunshine? If in Michigan… Would you get more solar energy in Detroit (53% sunshine), Lansing (51% sunshine) or Grand Rapids (46% sunshine – that pesky lake-effect cloudiness)? Would it do better in a place that gets more snow (to clean off the panels) like Grand Rapids (season average 74.9″), Lansing (avg. 51.1″) or Detroit (avg. 42.5”) . Would you put solar panels next to an expressway or out in the country? In a city where buildings could block the rising or setting sun? Or someplace rural with an open view to the horizon?