Cleaning the snow on PV panels is crucial to maintain optimum production level. We often tend to think that solar PV panels need direct radiation from the sun to work efficiently. Yet, it is not necessarily the case. Indeed, electricity can still be produced as long as the sunlight, direct of reflected, reaches them in sufficient quantity/intensity. 

Snowfall effects on solar production
We operate solar farms located in regions subject to snowfalls (north-west part of France). Through this experience, we have been able to notice the phenomenon described below.

First effect is on the panel’s efficiency, as snow can accumulate on the surface of the panel leading to production losses. Nevertheless, in Europe, panels are usually installed with a sufficient angle which allow the snow to fall directly on the ground. In addition, panels’ dark surface naturally accumulates the heat and enable the snow to melt quickly.

We have also noticed that solar PV panels tend to be more productive after a snowfall, when the sun reflects on the snow located on the ground. Not only the reflection has an impact on the production but also low temperatures, will improve the farm’s efficiency. We estimate that panel’s efficiency will decrease to 0.5% when temperature increase of about 1°C.

Effects of major snowfall
In the event of a large snowfall, thick snow cover can appear on the panels. The snow will act as a shield between the sunlight and the panels, therefore causing the panel to stop producing. In this case, trying to remove the snow from the panels may be considered. However, even a thick layer of snow does not generally last long on solar panels.

The decision to launch or not an operation to remove the snow should be taken with regards to the estimated production loss and the operation cost.

Would you also like to know what kind of affect snow and ice could have on your wind turbine? Our wind specialists can advise you. Contact us for more information!