Does Snow Lower the Efficiency of Solar Panels?

We all know that shading and dirt can cause a lot of trouble for our solar panels. But what about snow? This is what a small research team at Michigan Technological University decided to study. They`re findings are surprising. 

A thick layer of snow on top of your solar panels is obviously no good. Thick enough, and it can even stop any sunlight from entering the photovoltaic cells. In most cases this is not a big issue. Solar panels do usually not stay covered in snow for long – even in Canada and Alaska.


The Albedo Effect

Have you noticed that your skin easier burns on a sunny snow-covered winter day? This is because of the albedo effect, or diffuse reflectivity – basically the reflecting power of a surface. White particles, such as snow, actually reflect the majority of the light they are exposed to.

The researches at Michigan Technological University found that the electrical output of solar panels actually increase a bit when there`s a little snow present. On top off the albedo effect, solar cells are typically more efficient when cooled. 

What does this mean? Should I cover my solar panels in snow? That would probably not be a good idea. The point of the study was to show that solar panels clearly are still efficient in snowy areas during the winter.

The researchers have collected data from several of Ontario’s huge commercial solar farms. They are now in the process of finalizing a computer model that effectively can be used to predict efficiency of solar panels as a response to snowfall.

The bottom line is this: There is likely good reason to go solar even if you live in a place with snow during the winter!

For more information, read the full paper at

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Mathias is currently doing a masters in energy and environmental engineering at NTNU in Norway. In his spare time he runs , a site that focuses on informing and promoting the use of clean, renewable energy technologies and increased energy efficiency.Connect with Mathias on Google+ or send him an email .

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