Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Amping up solar in the snowy north

Date:
October 22, 2013
Source:
Michigan Technological University
Summary:
What's the best way to capture photovoltaic energy where snowfall is measured in feet?

An experimental array of solar panels at Michigan Technological University’s Keweenaw Research Center, where it typically snows over 200 inches annually. Researchers aim to determine which angle yields the most electricity over the course of a year.
Credit: Marcia Goodrich/Michigan Technological University

Solar farms are a no-brainer in warm and sunny places, but what about in northern climes where snow can cover and even shut down the panels?

Related Articles


Michigan Technological University's Keweenaw Research Center (KRC) is now part of a two-year study that will help answer that question. The aims are to gauge how snow affects solar panels' power generation and determine the best ways to overcome any losses.

The international engineering firm DNV GL, which specializes in large energy- and sustainability-related projects, has built an array of solar photovoltaic panels behind KRC, each set at a different angle, from 0 degrees (flat) to 45 degrees. "If you tilt them at 60 degrees, almost no snow sticks to the panels, but you also lose a lot of sunlight when they are not facing the sky," said Tim Townsend, a principal engineer for solar services with DNV GL.

Based on similar studies, year-round losses can be anywhere from a few percent (as found by Michigan Tech in a study looking at Ontario data) to 12 percent (39 degree tilt) to 18 percent (0 degree tilt), which Townsend measured near Lake Tahoe in California. Townsend's group developed a model to predict how snowfall and other related variables would affect energy generation. Now, they will test their model in collaboration with Michigan Tech using data from the KRC solar array and other test sites in Colorado, Pennsylvania and California.

A small variance in power generation may not make a big difference for a homeowner with solar panels. However, it's a big deal in industry.

"We do predictions on behalf of commercial lenders being asked to foot the bill for big solar arrays," said Townsend. Good data "makes them more financeable." Eventually, the study results will be publicly available through the KRC website and through solar energy simulation programs provided by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

"Everybody who wants to develop solar energy in snowy climates on a large scale will need this data," said Joshua Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering/electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Tech, who is participating in the project. "In the olden days, you'd only see solar farms in places like Arizona, and Spain. Now, large solar installations are found throughout the northern US and Canada."

Meanwhile, KRC plans to apply the lessons learned from the test solar panels in its own back yard. "Michigan Tech will be going full bore on stopping snow losses," said KRC Director Jay Meldrum.

In addition, KRC is testing another method to boost its solar power generation. They will be adjusting the panels' angles throughout the year to track the seasonal position of the sun, which is close to the horizon in winter and nearly directly overhead at the summer solstice. "Pointing the array at the proper altitude can help to maximize energy generation while reducing snow losses," Meldrum said. You can view both tests on the KRC webcams.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan Technological University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Rob W. Andrews, Andrew Pollard, Joshua M. Pearce. The effects of snowfall on solar photovoltaic performance. Solar Energy, 2013; 92: 84 DOI: 10.1016/j.solener.2013.02.014

Cite This Page:

Michigan Technological University. "Amping up solar in the snowy north." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131022113414.htm>.
Michigan Technological University. (2013, October 22). Amping up solar in the snowy north. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131022113414.htm
Michigan Technological University. "Amping up solar in the snowy north." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131022113414.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Gas Production Cut on Earthquake Fears

Gas Production Cut on Earthquake Fears

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) The Dutch government has cut production at Europe&apos;s largest gas field in Groningen amid concerns over earthquakes which are damaging local churches. As Amy Pollock reports the decision - largely politically-motivated - could have big economic conseqeunces. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Star Wars-Inspired Prototype Creates Holographic Display

Star Wars-Inspired Prototype Creates Holographic Display

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) A prototype holographic display named Leia - after the Star Wars princess who appeared in holographic form asking Obi-Wan Kenobu for help - is demonstrated at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
IKEA and Samsung Launch Embedded Wireless Charging Range

IKEA and Samsung Launch Embedded Wireless Charging Range

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) Samsung and IKEA hope their new embedded wireless charging products, launched at Barcelona&apos;s Mobile World Congress, will tempt consumers eager for plugless power. Jim Drury reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Samsung Unveils $30,000 'Dream Doghouse'

Samsung Unveils $30,000 'Dream Doghouse'

Buzz60 (Mar. 5, 2015) On display at the Crufts dog show in England, the &apos;dog kennel of the future&apos; comes with features like a doggie treadmill and Samsung tablet. Mike Janela (@mikejanela) has more. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins