Do Solar Panels Work in the Snow?

Solar panel technology converts sunlight into electricity when photons knock electrons free and generate a flow of electricity. Solar panels are made to withstand intense weather conditions. Snowy conditions are a concern for those looking at implementing their own solar energy system; however, when properly maintained the panels can adequately produce power to meet your electrical needs. 

Understanding Solar Panels and Snow

Solar panels are designed to generate electricity from the sun, so many assume that solar panels will not work in regions that experience snowy winters. It is important to understand the impact that snow has on solar panel performance while also acknowledging that solar panels are still capable of successfully generating electricity in snowy conditions. 

Snow’s Impact on Solar Panel Efficiency

When snow accumulates on the panels, they will not generate electricity as it reduces the amount of sunlight reaching the panels. Solar panels work more efficiently in the cold and are rated for how well they are able to perform based on their peak temperature. When the temperature of the panels goes beyond peak temperature, their efficiency decreases. Arrays are designed with a tilt making it easy for snow to slide off. The dark panels also attract heat which can aid in the snow melting process and as it melts, the snow can clean the panels by taking away any dirt and debris that is built up on the panels. 

Winter Maintenance and Snow Removal

Regular maintenance and snow removal is important for optimizing solar panel production during the snowy winter months. It is often recommended to not clean snow off of panels in order to limit the potential risk for damaging the panels. It is important to allow the tilt design and heat absorption of the panels to naturally remove the snow that builds up.  

Snow as a Cleaning Agent

Dust and debris build up on solar panels can decrease production. When snow melts off the panels, it can act as a cleaning agent that removes dust and debris build up. This can help to increase panel performance without requiring any manual maintenance.

Snow Load and Structural Considerations

Heavy snowfall can place stress on the support structure of a solar energy system. Due to array designs and installations, snow rarely remains on panels for more than a few days. Frameless panels can assist in allowing the slow to slide off the array. 

Case Studies and Real-Life Examples

Solar panels have been proven to withstand snowy conditions while also continuing to adequately produce electricity. Solar array installations are popular in some of the snowiest states such as New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey which are all in the top ten states for solar panel installations in the country.

Technological Advancements and Solutions

The NREL is researching a variety of materials used for array builds and their ability to perform in different climates. Through this research, costs will be lowered accompanied by more reliable and predictable products. Optimizing frameless panels with a design that is capable of withstanding extreme snow conditions will help in the installation of durable arrays in snowy regions. 

Bottom Line

Solar panels are capable of producing and operating more efficiently in the presence of snow. System tilt can aid in the removal process and snow melt can also act as cleaning agent for dust and debris. It is important to acknowledge the potential damage done to your panels if you choose to participate in snow removal. Solar energy remains a viable energy source even in regions that experience consistent snowfall.