This is a valid question for all residents living in Canada looking to install Solar Panels. Snow and wintry weather is an everyday encounter we face in much of Canada throughout the year. While snow allows Canadians to enjoy wintry activities like skiing, snowboarding, and ice hockey, can solar panels still serve their purpose even in snowy conditions?
When using solar panels in Canada, the key concern is that accumulation of snow can block the rays of the sun from reaching inside the solar panels. The light snowfall can slide right off the surface of the solar panels that are installed on the rooftop of residential or commercial buildings.
However, the studies from the “Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT)” suggest that they have only found around 6% of annual production is lost due to snow on typical roof angles. This low percentage of loss is also due to the fact that we get fewer hours of winter sunlight and the incident angle of the winter sun is lower in Canada. The snowfall study by the Department of Energy in the USA concludes that snow doesn’t impact snow on solar productions as much as we might first expect.
Then How does that 6% loss translate into annual electricity budgets? If designed properly, the overall impact of snow might cause an annual energy loss equal to $20 or $50 for a residential install. With net-metering, the system can be designed so that the credit built up in the summer will match the user’s needs through the winter, so the user’s net annual energy charges can still be close to $0 over the course of the year.
Can the extra weight of snow damage solar panels? Many solar panel models are designed to withstand this extra weight from snow. Solar panels like Hanwha Q-Cells and Canadian Solar CS6K series are built to withstand at least 5400 pascals of force on the frame due to snow loading which is the equivalent of about 112 pounds-per-square-inch.
With all of these factors considered, it concludes that snows are less of a problem. Simply taking the time to consider expected snowfall in the design of a solar power system eliminates most, if not all the potential problems.
For off-grid and stand-alone systems, the snow that is on the surface of the solar panels can be removed with a soft brush. However, due to safety reasons, it is not recommended to climb on top of a 20-foot-high roof in the middle of the winter to brush the snow off your solar panels. Any activities that involve brushing contact surface of the solar panels should be confirmed with manufacturer’s warranty first.