It would be a reasonable assumption that solar panels use heat to generate electricity, so it would be an equally reasonable assumption to believe that solar panels are less effective in cold environments. However, a new study conducted by the Michigan Technological University has found that solar panels can actually work much more efficiently in snowy regions, even in areas that receive heavy snowfall.
This is due to the albedo effect, which is the diffuse reflectivity, or reflecting power, of the surface. The whiter the surface the more sunlight is reflected off it (it is for this reason that skiers can get snow blind, and badly sun burnt when out on the mountain).
During snowfall the panels can be covered, reducing their productivity, but with angled panels the snow quickly slides off, even during the heaviest of falls.
The paper, titled “Prediction of Energy Effects on Photovoltaic Systems Due to Snowfall Events” was authored by Michigan Tech’s R.W. Andrews and Joshua Pearce, who explained that “they created a computer model to predict how much power generation would decline in various amounts of snow cover and on different types of solar modules mounted at different angles, from flat to steeply pitched. Then they validated their model with data from many of Ontario’s huge commercial solar farms.”
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com