The main contributing factor I always had: to be more self reliant, more sustainable, and to help make a difference. The final piece to make this type of project feasible for an average American, was the new deals that allowed you to "lease" photovoltaic solar panels. Basically all my friends and family lease cars, why not solar panels? Especially if I will be saving money, our environment and reducing America's overall energy appetite for fossil fuels!
Today I am discussing the one issue with solar panels that half our nation has to deal with and that is SNOW. Since I am in the northern half of the United States, I have snow from time to time between October and March. However after obtaining satisfactory, not excellent answers for dealing with the snow, I proceeded. Only my own direct experience with snow on my solar panels will give me all the answers.
Currently, I had almost three months where my solar panels are working with our sun low in the winter sky, short days, several overcast days, three snow falls and one snow storm. Another snow / ice storm is coming down as I write this GTG post. Since the start of the year, I have saved the equivalent to NOT driving a car for 1,048 miles or avoiding the use of 246 gallons of water. These results are better than I expected, but I put some elbow action into play to help achieve those numbers. Yes, I cleaned the snow off my panels, but here is the complete picture:
- My electric bill has been reduced by 80% and at this rate, come springtime, I will be producing far more than I consume.
- I noticed that even on overcast days or with a few inches of snow on the panels, if the sun is shining, I am still producing 250 to 350 watts. Far more than what we consume when everyone is at work.
- If a few inches of snow is sitting on the panels, once I clean that snow off, production jumps to over 2 kWh (kilowatt hours) aka 2,000 watts.
- I noticed that the panels at a 45 degree angle cause the snow to slide off once the sun is out and warming things up. So if you have a two story house, nature will do the work for you.
- Since I have panels on part of my house with less than a 45 degree angle, I purchased a light weight extension pole with a brush and squeegee at the end. So far it is working fine and more exercise outdoors for me.
With any extension pole stay clear of overhead wires!
Also I wear rubber boots, heavy rubber gloves and protective eye-wear in case a piece of ice breaks off from somewhere.
Watch for an avalanche!
After the first large snow fall I was thankful that the strong winds kept 75% of my panels clear of snow! However, one section was covered with 4 foot snow drifts. The extension pole was no match up against four feet of snow at the peak of the roof, so I retracted the pole to maintain strength and used the squeegee side to slam down into the snow by the gutters. Once I cleared the four feet of snow all along the bottom of the roof's edge I knew that was all I could accomplish. The sun would have to do the rest, but as I stood there in four
So I will continue to use my extension pole when feasible, because I am now a little more wiser. I will also continue to share my knowledge and findings over several Going True Green Blog postings. As for this posting that is reporting on the concern about how solar panels and snow mix? Well, I can come up with a few automatic ways to keep snow from building up on the panels, but that will involve air flow, heat, electricity and the consumption of energy. Perhaps I'll venture down that road when rechargeable battery backup systems are available to store solar energy for night time, rainy days and snow covered days.
Bill Lauto, GTG
Environmental Scientist at
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