Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snow on Solar Panels

This morning I woke up to find that we had a blanket of snow on the ground. It was just a couple of inches, but enough to play in. After the fun of catching snowflakes on our tongues and sledding down the street. I wondered what the snow was doing to our solar panels. You can seen in the picture below, they are covered. 

Even in this state, to my surprise, they were generating power. It was not much, just 20 Watts, enough to run the LED lights in our house. 
Looking around on the web I found several suggestions from homeowners regarding what to do about the snow. The suggestions included knocking the snow off with a Nerf football, salting the panels to prevent freezing, hosing the snow off, and applying heat tape. 

Some of those seem like very bad ideas. Hitting the panels, even with a Nerf, could damage them. These PV panels have silicone wafers and soldered connections, breaking these would damage the system. Salting the panels also seems like a bad idea too. The panel edges, mounting rails, fuse box etc. are all various types of metal that could be damaged by salt. As for hosing of the snow, I turned off all of my external water last month, so that is not an option and applying water that could later freeze and crack things does not seem like a good idea. 
Heat tape was the one idea on the list that did have merit. Heat tape is made to prevent water pipes from freezing. You can find it in any home store. If I lived somewhere that had more days of snow, I would consider it. We generally have less than 10 days per year, usually only 2 or 3. 

December and January represent such a small amount of our annual power production that it is not significant it they are offline for a few days. So, unlike this summer when I cleaned the panels twice, my solution to the "snow problem" is to just let it be. I am sure it will not be there in July :-)

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