Ivor O’Connor

February 6, 2009

The Care of Solar PV Panels

Filed under: Uncategorized — ioconnor @ 8:45 pm

It seems obvious but confirmation is always good. The obvious part being once the panels are cleared they’ll burn off the rest of the snow quickly. And any ice would sublimate off.

Then there’s the question of what extreme cold and heat do to the longevity of panels. Or for that matter what they are rated for.

Documentation mentions they should be spaced from the roof for ventilation purposes so they don’t overheat in hot climates. However could they be made part of the radiator in a solar water heater? There must be an elegant method for this. Something that perhaps adds insulation to the house as well. Surely in time we’ll see PV combined with solar water heating to both regulate the PV panel temperature while heating the water and insulating the house. There might be some money now in such trifectas of environmentalism.

Perhaps with some circuitry to monitor the temperatures. Or better yet some temperature sensitive passive valves and optimal placements of water storage tanks so they can be fed more or less via gravity. A design optimized for failure to passively still work is needed but a little active monitoring via sensors and a hardened linux box could possibly be used to tweak out considerable more energy savings.

If Wednesday’s experiment is any indication, clearing off just a little on a sunny day is a lot better than doing nothing. With some of the panels exposed, the current starts to flow, creating some heat on the panels’ surface and melting the snow. So within a few hours, much of the snow melted, apparently from the heat of the sun and the panels themselves.

With any luck, my electricity bill will go back down to where it was before the snowflakes started falling. So far, it looks like the panels produced 25 percent more electricity in January than in December, when the snow blockage was at its worst. (Other factors like number of sunny days, of course, come into play.)

I confess, I was a little preoccupied with this situation Wednesday morning; I made a few trips outside to quickly clear away the snow after it melted and slid down the panels. By midday, the panels were more or less clear and fully operational.

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