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LakeLeaf
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Thoughts on solar in snow country

Mon Dec 27, 2010 11:53 pm

I like the idea of using solar energy to generate your own power. Unfortunately I live in snow country and the roof is covered in snow from Oct/Nov well into April or sometimes even May - usually a good six months. With a couple of feet of insulation in the attic, in a good winter I have more then another story of snow on the roof!

In order to install solar, I'd have to have a way to melt the snow on the panels. I'm thinking that I might be able to get enough solar on the side of the house to heat up water pipes, send that warm water to the solar cells on top of the roof and heat them enough to get rid of the snow. There is a whole lot of solar gain when you are at almost 7000 feet with more then 320 days of sunshine a year - it's just that darn snow that gets in the way.

Has anyone ever seen a solar system designed to keep itself clear of snow?

The second major issue I have to overcome is that I'd likely have to tilt my solar panels off the roof to get the right angle. We sometimes have 50-70+MPH winds here, so the installation would have to be able to withstand some pretty strong winds. Any suggestions on this?

Lastly, the squirrels like to climb the 100 foot tall pines around the house and chew off the pine cones so that they drop onto the roof. I'd be a little worried that a pine cone would hit a panel and ruin it - I don't know how tough these panels are.

Am I looking at too many obstacles here for an effective solar system?

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garygid
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Re: Thoughts on solar in snow country

Tue Dec 28, 2010 12:48 am

Mount panels vertically on south or west (unshaded) walls?

Then, no snow, squirls, or pine cones to worry about.
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planet4ever
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Re: Thoughts on solar in snow country

Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:48 am

LakeLeaf wrote:Lastly, the squirrels like to climb the 100 foot tall pines around the house and chew off the pine cones so that they drop onto the roof. I'd be a little worried that a pine cone would hit a panel and ruin it - I don't know how tough these panels are.

I don't know. If I had ever been hit by a pine cone dropped 100 feet I might well have a different opinion, but I suspect that is the least of your worries. We have a cluster of three very tall pine trees about 100 feet southwest of our house (not on our property), and they make our solar output plummet as the sun dips below their tops on winter afternoons. I can't imagine what they would do to the output if they were close enough for pine cones to hit the roof. [Given how straight pines grow, those squirrels must have really strong throwing arms. :lol: ] Oh, wait, you did say something about wind, didn't you?

Here is a half serious thought - we get no snow at all, but our solar panels produce an average of about 6 MWh/year in the five months from May 1 to Oct 1 and only about 5 MWh/year in the seven months from Oct 1 to May 1. Lake Tahoe is a couple of degrees further north than we are, so the difference is likely to be even a bit more pronounced for you. You might consider just letting the solar system hibernate all winter.
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Gonewild
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Re: Thoughts on solar in snow country

Tue Dec 28, 2010 8:11 am

I think the snow would melt away after a few days with the sun hitting the metal frame as the snow reduces as the day go by.
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Jimmydreams
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Re: Thoughts on solar in snow country

Tue Dec 28, 2010 8:14 am

If you have squirrels dropping pine cones on your roof, it sounds like snow is the least of your problems and that shading would prevent you from using solar.......???
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DaveinOlyWA
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Re: Thoughts on solar in snow country

Tue Dec 28, 2010 8:15 am

hmm. i would be worried about roof loading. add solar panel weight plus that much snow?? keep in mind; the Metrodome (you know the stadium with the "new" sunroof?) was supposed to be able to handle it and it is in Minnesota...

how much property do you own? up here many with land simply put it up "near" the house. can you do that?
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evnow
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Re: Thoughts on solar in snow country

Tue Dec 28, 2010 8:40 am

LakeLeaf wrote:We sometimes have 50-70+MPH winds here, so the installation would have to be able to withstand some pretty strong winds.

How about getting some small wind power generator instead ?
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Re: Thoughts on solar in snow country

Tue Dec 28, 2010 9:03 am

What about a ground mounted array? Maybe a couple pedestal mounted panels. Sweeping snow off would be easier and much safer than on the roof. A friend has two pedestals with four panels on each. Granted he does have room and no shading or squirrels. The output would be reduced with a smaller array but think of it as a supllemental source.
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DaveinOlyWA
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Re: Thoughts on solar in snow country

Tue Dec 28, 2010 9:17 am

well you could design a system that incorporates the "avalanche" effect. where warm water is pumped thru the system creating a melted super thin layer of water. the slope of the roof would allow the snow to just slide off.

i would still go with ground mounted system if you have the yard space. this allow the perfect alignment which is not always possible
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garygid
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Re: Thoughts on solar in snow country

Tue Dec 28, 2010 9:18 am

The falling, wind-blown pine cones might require a protective grating over the glass panels?

What have others in your area done for their PV?
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2010 Prius, 2014 silver Tesla S
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