Winter Snow Poses Little Risk For Home Solar Panel Systems

Millions of Americans living on the East Coast are bracing for the furious winter mix that may occur if Hurricane Sandy collides with early snow storm cells. As the cold and precipitation approaches, many are concerned about travel conditions, and how they’ll keep their homes warm without a giant energy bill.

But what about houses that have already gone solar? I’ve never really thought about it before, but what happens when they’re buried by a winter snow storm? According to research out of Michigan Technological University, winter snow poses little to no risk for home solar panel systems. In fact, a covering of snow might even boost photovoltaic production.

snow-covered-solar-panel

Image via Shutterstock

Together with researchers from St. Lawrence College and Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ontario, and a team of 20 industry partners, MTU’s Joshua Pierce 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. Results shows that even during the dark and stormy winter, power loss was minimal across the board.

“Sometimes snow actually helps solar cells,” said Pearce. Wondering how that can be possible? Well, Pearce is referring to the albedo effect, when sunlight reflects off snow. When piled up around a solar array (not directly on top of, that snow needs to be brushed off) snow can make a panel generate more electricity in the same way that it gives skiers sunburn on sunny winter days.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog

    • Sandra

      If you have installed solar panels on a roof that is still under the manufacturers warranty, in all likelihood you have voided the warranty.

      What does this mean?

      It means that when you claim with your insurance company for anything regarding the structural integrity of your home, your insurance company can legally refuse your claim, meaning that you would have to remedy any damage yourself, at your own expense, even though you beleived that you were covered.

      This is going to be a significant issue for people in New Jersey needing to make claims after Hurricane Sandy. Insurance companies are going to be facing massive losses and will limit their exposure by using the 100% legal argument.

      If you don’t believe me, read the terms and conditions of your home insurance policy in detail.

      The Devil is always in the detail.

    • John

      A few years ago I decided against solar for the same reason after I read this blog.

      http://renaissanceronin.wordpress.com/2008/12/15/solar-panels-killed-my-roof-e-i-e-i-ouch/