Uhoh! The Solar Panels Are Covered In Snow! Snow Removal Advice From A Pro

Categories: Home Stories

Solar Panel Snow Removal  by Tab 1/27/13

My name is Tab. I am an almost architect, attempting to live a modern life off the electricity grid, with my boyfriend, three dogs and various chickens in the mountains of Vermont.  It is 2℉ here, which is actually the warmest morning we have had in over a week. Two good things about it being so cold:
1) It is usually very bright and sunny.
2) Not many tourists are willing to brave the chilly temps, so us locals have the slopes all to ourselves. We took full advantage of these facts yesterday, despite the -20 ℉ temp at the summit.

    Even with full sunshine bright and early this morning, the dusting we received last night was not melting off the panels as quickly as I would have liked.

I am going to have to leave my warm little cacoon and steaming cup of mint green tea to clean them off. Too lazy to put on my Carharts, I ran out in my base layers and Casey's work gloves. The huge man gloves are not an awesome idea when you are trying to push the tiny camera button.


We use an extend-able pole meant for window washing to accomplish this unpleasant task. It has a fluffy microfiber mop wrapped around the end. Generally just touching the top of the panels will cause a little avalanche and all the snow will fall and the wind will blow it directly into your face and down your jacket, no matter where you stand. Unpleasant is an understatement, but it wakes you up quicker than any caffeine.

  The solar hot water panels receive the same treatment.  These panels are fixed at the winter angle, about 60°. This angle is based on your latitude. I believe that proper formula is latitude plus 15°.   Our pv panels are manual tilt panels, as opposed to trackers which move and angle to follow the path of the sun automatically. We generally keep ours at the winter angle throughout the entire snow season to ease in snow removal, instead of tilting them to the spring angle as early as we technically should. 

  When even a small portion of the panels are covered, it causes about a 20% drop in productivity. I could have waited another hour and the sun would have cleared them, but that was precious power we were losing. Truth, I needed to charge my laptop to facilitate continued blog perusal.

PS: Don't eat the yellow snow. It isn't lemonade flavored.  Follow me on my blog as we make this homestead our own.

  Page Turn