This entry focuses on two additional possible solutions, one from Germany, the other from Switzerland, which I learned about while watching a German news video on YouTube.
Germany’s far and away the global solar leader. In fact, one of the German videos I watched in order to learn what Germans are doing to solve the snow on solar panels problem notes that there are 600,000 solar rooftops in Germany!
In addition to having a lot of solar, Germany, which is a bit larger than the State of New Mexico but with about 40 times as many people, also gets plenty of snow in the winter, as does Switzerland.
Schneerutsch und futsch The first German solution is an elaborate snow-clearing system that quickly and efficiently pushes the snow off a solar system via what one might call a hydraulic snow shover. It’s build by Schneerutsch und futsch GmbH.
This is a great idea. But it’s also expensive — about 7,500 Euros for the system pictured here and which you can also view in action in the video at the end of this entry. It may only be economically viable for large systems of 30 kW or more in Germany, and it’s probably not yet economically viable in North America.
That noted, it is a great idea. We hope that the maker will be able to successfully market the product and begin to sell it in large numbers so that economies of scale eventually bring the cost down and potentially make it affordable for owners of small rooftop PV systems such as ours, which is 5.59 kW.
Snowaway The other system – this one from Switzerland – is much lower tech and much cheaper. Called “Snowaway”, It requires installing a metal railing above a set of panels. Then, using a pulley mechanism, the solar system owner can maneuver a plastic tarp-like device horizontally and vertically to push the snow off the panels. (Unfortunately, there is no YouTube video available; to watch “Snowaway” in action, go to –>http://www.elosolar.ch/produkte.html )
This system is a lot cheaper than the “Schneerutsch” system, but it still isn’t cheap. It costs 500 Euros – and that doesn’t even include all of the parts.
It’s also clear that you’d encounter problems with big snowfalls, which might make the snow too high or heavy for the tarp-like device to perform effectively. The solution would be to go out during a big storm and repeatedly clear the snow from the panels before it gets too high and heavy.
Although it’s still too expensive for us, we like this pulley/tarp-shovel system enough that we plan on contacting the makers — Elosolar, a Swiss company — and doing another short story on it. Check back for that sometime before the end of snowfall season, which here in Colorado actually doesn’t come until late April or early May 🙂