Home editor's blog on going solar One man and a Mr. Longarm take on snowstorm

One man and a Mr. Longarm take on snowstorm

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Snow on solar panels

A giant snowstorm hit the Denver, Colo. area, making for huge snow piles in our neighborhood.

Snow on solar panels Snow on solar panels

Snow on solar panels

A view of our house, surrounded by big snow piles, before I head up to clear snow from our 5.59 kW solar system.

Snow on solar panels Snow on solar panels

Snow on solar panels

A ladder and a Mr. Longarm are the tools I generally use to clear snow from our lower 13-panel string.

Snow on solar panels Snow on solar panels

Snow on solar panels

The view looking down from the ladder that I stand on while clearing snow from our solar system.

Snow on solar panels Snow on solar panels

Snow on solar panels

After about 20 minutes, I hadn't made much progress on removing the two-feet of snow that fell on our solar system.

Snow on solar panels Snow on solar panels

Snow on solar panels

Deep, heavy snow snapped the squeegee right off the Mr. Longarm angle adaptor.

Snow on solar panels Snow on solar panels

Snow on solar panels

Luckily, I had another Mr. Longarm angle adaptor. But it turns out I didn't need it.

Snow on solar panels Snow on solar panels

Snow on solar panels

See the tiny hole in the snow drift at the center top? That drift broke our Mr. Longarm extender.

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Snow on solar panels

Some of the tools that Mr. Longarm sent me several months ago.

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Snow on solar panels

A Mr. Longarm brush attached to a special extender for solar systems worked pretty well.

Snow on solar panels Snow on solar panels

Snow on solar panels

Before I got up on our roof I cleared snow and ice off a patch of roof and waited two hours until the sun had completely freed it of snow and ice.

Snow on solar panels Snow on solar panels

Snow on solar panels

Our neighbor's house has a 5.1 kW solar system -- but it's totally covered with snow here.

Snow on solar panels Snow on solar panels

Snow on solar panels

Meanwhile, after more than an hour of snow-clearing, half of our 5.59 kW system is producing electricity.

Snow on solar panels Snow on solar panels

The Denver, Colo. area just got walloped by a snowstorm that dumped about two feet of snow on us – and on our 5.59 kW solar system.

That means that yours truly was out there this morning after the storm had drawn to a close trying to shove snow off our lower 13-panel string with a Mr. Longarm (our upper 13 panels aren’t reachable, even with a Mr. Longarm).

It was very tough going, especially considering that a drift about three-feet deep had formed on the upper part of this 13-panel string.

Ladder or roof?
I recognized right away that I wouldn’t be able to do much from the top of the ladder. So, from the relative safety of the ladder, I shoveled a large area of roof clear of snow – and then waited about two hours for the snow and ice in that spot to melt.

From the relative safety of that spot (see slideshow, pictures), which was completely snow and ice free, but still wet, I set to work trying to clear this 13-panel string of snow.

About 20 minutes into the job, which took well over an hour, I snapped the angle adaptor for our Mr. Longarm. The sheer weight of the snow, about three-feet deep in places, was too much for the adaptor.

As it turned out, breaking the Mr. Longarm angle adaptor to be a blessing in disguise.

ajMr. Longarm broom
I retreated to the garage to see what back-up stuff we had in the bag of items a Mr. Longarm representative generously sent me several months ago. I found a broom extension attached to another Mr. Longarm extender, this one specifically adapted for solar systems, and that worked pretty well.

But this pole wasn’t long enough to reach the upper part of the 13-panel string. So I re-attached the squeegee I had connected to our 23-foot Mr. Longarm extender, this time without the angle adaptor.

In fact I didn’t realize I could do this: I thought I needed the angle adaptor when I don’t really need it – at least not if I’m shoving snow around from the roof, or while standing on the top of our ladder, which are the only ways to remove snow from our roof due to its extremely shallow, 19-degree pitch.

Great workout
I got a great workout and even managed to experience a profound out-in-nature moment about 45 minutes into the job when two red-tailed hawks soared above me and filled the crisp winter air with their unforgettable “ch-ahh, ch-ahh” calls.

I know some, maybe many, people think it’s not worth it to clear a home solar system of snow. And, no doubt, from an economic perspective – electricity costs just 11 cents per kWh here in Aurora, Colo. – it isn’t.

For me, it’s a matter of principle. I feel strongly that solar should matter more than it does in our energy mix. Letting our 5.59 kW system sit under snow for two or three blue-sky sunny days while we lost 40, 50, maybe 60 kWh of production, which is exactly what would’ve happened had I not cleared the bottom 13-string of snow, doesn’t sit well with me.

Neither does the laissez-faire attitude of those who say snow sitting on solar panels doesn’t matter, especially when I hear this from folks in the solar industry. Nothing telegraphs more clearly that solar is a complete and total sideshow to coal, natural gas and nuclear than the message that snow can sit for days on home solar systems as the occupants let solar electricity production escape while simply plugging into coal, natural gas, and/or nuclear generated electricity.

More on my strong distaste for this “just-let-it-melt” attitude in my next entry ;-)

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