Snow, cold and Canada: How does solar PV hold up in the Great White North?

My Clean Break column today in the Toronto Star (it’s only online at the moment) looks at research underway at St. Lawrence College and Queen’s University in Kingston that is looking at how snowfall impacts the performance of PV panels from a variety of suppliers (crystalline and thin film) and in a range of configurations. I’ll let you read the column, but the interesting part for me is that preliminary study has indicated an albedo effect that partly compensates for lost performance due to panel snowcover. Seems for the short period of time panels do have snow on them, the longer-lasting snow that surrounds these panels amplifies the sunlight and improves the output of the panels. The benefits vary depending on panel angle and design. The higher the angle, one would presume, the better the albedo effect, and I would also imagine that thin film — which better captures the energy in ambient light — would also benefit more from the albedo effect. Will be interesting to see the results of the second phase of their study, which is taking place at four test sites in southern Ontario. Many of the regions of the world offering generous solar incentives (such as feed-in-tariffs) and experiencing some of the most rapid growth also happen to be in snowfall zones. So this kind of study will be valuable in several solar PV markets, including Canada-U.S. borders states.

4 thoughts on “Snow, cold and Canada: How does solar PV hold up in the Great White North?”

  1. Ok, great to hear that a phase of snow covering can be compensated by the higher albedo of the surrounding area. The cold temperaur is also a factor from which the efficiency profits. Yet, are the phases with covered solar panels that short?

  2. After reading your article in the star, I wonder if you have read about Spain’s cuurent photovoltaic situation?
    Spain’s Great Photovoltaic Bust – 30,000 Jobs Lost Since 2008
    By P Gosselin on 13. Januar 2011

    (T.H.: Please provide links only, don’t post the whole article… and yes, Spain is well know. It has been mismanaged, and I fear Ontario is risking this as well. But this isn’t a reflection of feed-in-tariffs or similar programs, as much as a reflection of poor planning. Also, to be fair, many of the countries that are retreating are doing so because of troubles caused by the recession. Green energy plans are casualties are of this, like many other government programs/cuts).

  3. There are many issues regarding small-scale solar that deserve answers–snow retention is one. Another is the impact of UV radiation on UV-stabilized plastic and carbon fibre over 20+years of assumed system life. I applaud early adopters of this technology, but how long will we have to wait until panels with over 40 per cent peak efficiency are available, especially in partial DIY systems? At this time capital costs are still in the extreme zone.

  4. Here is the latest from England… We are rapidly moving to the fore as those ahead of us retreat into saner waters.

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