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.