The Challenges Of Solar Power In Winter Climates


Solar Panels in Field Covered By Snow

When you think of solar power generation, you’re likely to picture solar panels on the roofs of homes in sunny California or maybe even an industrial solar park in the heart of the desert. You are less likely to picture solar panels lining a snow covered field. It is a common misconception that solar panels do not function efficiently in winter climates. In fact, it is quite the opposite as the colder temperatures allow for an increase in photo-voltaic output. So why don’t we see more solar panels in winter climates?

The main issue comes in the form of snow removal. Considering that even a small amount of snow can significantly reduce solar PV output, it is critical that it is removed both quickly and efficiently. This is especially difficult in utility scale solar projects, which cover a large area and implement large panels, thus accumulating significant amounts of frozen precipitation. In addition, there is the complication of cleaning solar panels without making physical contact with the panels themselves. Solar park operators are concerned with touching the panel surfaces for fear of violating the panel’s warranty.

Even for the residential consumer market, having to clean your panels manually during and after a snowfall can be a daunting and dangerous task. It is much harder to access a panel on a roof when the temperatures are frigid and when there’s a foot of snow on the ground.

One solution to this problem has been heating the entire panel itself. However, this solution relies on an individual turning on the heating system when frozen accretion is present with the flick of a switch. This reversion method is inefficient as it considerably drains energy created by the solar panel. In addition, a significant part of this converted heat is lost out the sides and back of the panel thereby drastically reducing power efficiency.

Blizzard Solar has developed a soon to be patented solution that addresses these issues. The Autonomous Winter Solar Panel (AWSP) is a completely autonomous snow and ice cleaning system that detects and removes all winter precipitation on solar modules which ensures maximum PV output year round, in all winter weather conditions.

The AWSP system operates in four stages:

1) The system (using Blizzard Solar’s patented Winter Precipitation Sensor) autonomously monitors and detects the accumulation of frozen precipitation on the panel.

2) The system then removes the impediment to PV output using the smallest amount of energy possible.

3) The system detects when the impediment is removed and disengages the cleaning stage. 4) The system proceeds to generate power at maximum efficacy as the panels are clear from snow/ice.

Compared to a typical reversion-based system, the AWSP has several advantages. One is that instead of heating the entire panel and wasting energy as heat, the AWSP only heats the very top (2 millimeters) of the panel, creating a thin film of water between the snow/ice and the panel itself. The panel is then gently vibrated, causing the frozen impediment to avalanche off of the panel. Secondly, in using Blizzard's WPS sensor, the AWSP can detect even the smallest amount of snow or ice accumulation on a panel and engage/disengage cleaning systems as necessary.

Effectively, the AWSP is unique in its ability to ensure maximum PV output and efficacy, year round, in all winter weather conditions. For both solar park operators and the manufacturers that supply them, this technology is a game changer for the solar industry.

Feel free to contact us to learn more or inquire about purchasing the IP.

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