Home editor's blog on going solar Solar companies brush off snow problem

Solar companies brush off snow problem

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snow-oct-2011

editors-blog-entry3I’ve noted before that solar installers don’t take snow on solar panels seriously, they typically brush it off -- pun intended – as an inconsequential issue and/or maintain that snow will melt quickly off your home solar system.

I’m not going to get into the specifics of how, in certain circumstances -- including our own -- snow can be a real drag on your home solar production. I’ve written extensively about this in previous blog entries such as these – ‘Snow on solar panels: Six design considerations,’ ‘Mr. Longarm not perfect for solar panel snow problem,’Snow on solar panels slices production.’

Instead, I’ll point you to a perfect example of the nonchalance solar companies show toward snow: A recent entry on SunRun’s blog.

Poll: Snow & solar

What do you do when snow covers your solar system?
 

How will snow affect my solar panels?
Aptly entitled, “It’s Snowing! How Will This Affect My Solar Panels?” the entry has this to say about snow:

“If snowfall is light, it’s fine to go up and give the panels a good swipe. Otherwise, all that’s really needed is to stand back and wait. The solar panels do all the work themselves both quickly and efficiently . . . As the panels warm up, they start to melt the ice directly on top of them, and then friction does the rest. Assuming the panels are placed at an angle on the roof, the snow slides off as the bottom layer melts, freeing your panels from their icy blanket.”

In fact, if your home solar system is on a roof with a shallow pitch, like ours is (19 degrees), depending on how much snow falls and how cold it is after the snow fall, snow will block your system for days and days, completing wiping out production, even in blue-sky, sunny conditions.

We don’t really need solar for our core electricity use in the U.S. For that, we can continue to rely on the true core of our electricity production, which, of course, is coal! Meanwhile, we’ll let millions of solar electric kWh go to waste under a blanket of snow – even if it means more fossil fuel production and consumption, and more pollution, which, of course, is exactly what it does mean!

Don’t worry about snow, be happy
But don’t worry, says SunRun, which, along with Sungevity and SolarCity, is one of the biggest players in the solar lease revolution that’s sweeping across more than a dozen U.S. states – if it turns out you’re essentially screwed by shallow roof pitch, or perhaps, partly cloudy conditions, a mega-snow fall, or a combination of these that mean snow completely cuts off your production for two, three, four, or more days, in the end it doesn’t really matter because SunRun’s calculated that loss into your overall solar lease equation.

Never mind that the collective electricity production loss of thousands of snow-covered rooftops can easily total in the millions, and, perhaps eventually, as more and more rooftop solar goes up in snow climates, tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of kWh. After all, we don’t really need solar for our core electricity use in the U.S. For that, we can continue to rely on the true core of our electricity production, which, of course, is coal! Meanwhile, we’ll let millions of solar electric kWh go to waste under a blanket of snow – even if it means more fossil fuel production and consumption, and more pollution, which, of course, is exactly what it does mean!

Sheeesh…

Mountains of rooftop snow
And then, finally, there’s the picture SunRun uses with its entry on snow on solar panels. It’s of a couple of PV panels on a roof that has mountains of snow on it. The panels have clearly been consistently swept free of snow – because if they hadn’t, they’d be completely snow-covered, even in blue-sky, sunny conditions such as those in which the photo was taken.

But SunRun basically advises to just wait until snow melts by itself.

Hmmm….

Yes, indeed, we have a loooong way to go before the issue of snow on solar panels gets treated seriously and someone – finally! – comes up with an efficient, cost-effective, and safe way clear rooftop panels of a solar-electricity stealing blanket of snow.

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