Solar Panels Work Great in Snowy Regions, Research Shows

Solar power installations are well worth the investment, even in snowy climates, according to new research from Michigan Technological University. The albedo effect caused by white snow cover actually helps to increase solar panel efficiency (counter to what many of us might have thought).

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While a layer of snowfall temporarily covers the panel and stops production, the panels don’t remain covered for long, even in the most snow-heavy regions.

“Sometimes snow actually helps solar cells,” says Michigan Tech’s Joshua Pearce. Referring to the albedo effect, which is caused by white colors reflecting sunlight. “It can make a panel generate more electricity in the same way that it gives skiers sunburn on sunny winter days.”

For the new research, scientists from St. Lawrence College and Queen’s University, along with a group of 20 industry partners, investigated the effects of snow on the Open Solar Outdoors Test Field.

“They created a computer model to predict how much power generation would decline in various amounts of snow cover and on different types of solar modules mounted at different angles, from flat to steeply pitched. Then they validated their model with data from many of Ontario’s huge commercial solar farms.”

“In most cases power losses are minimal, even in snowy Canada,” Pearce said. As part of the research, though, they also created a model that is designed to help the most efficient photovoltaic systems, even in extremely snowy areas.

Pearce and R. W. Andrews have authored a paper based on the preliminary study, “Prediction of Energy Effects on Photovoltaic Systems Due to Snowfall Events,” published in proceedings of the 2012 38th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference.
Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1r4oK)

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