Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Amping Up Solar in the Snowy North

23.10.2013
Solar farms are a no-brainer in warm and sunny places, but what about in northern climes where snow can cover and even shut down the panels?

Michigan Technological University’s Keweenaw Research Center (KRC) is now part of a two-year study that will help answer that question. The aims are to gauge how snow affects solar panels’ power generation and determine the best ways to overcome any losses.


Marcia Goodrich/Michigan Technological University

Michigan Tech solar energy scientist Joshua Pearce, left, and Jay Meldrum, director of the Keweenaw Research Center, with the array of solar panels behind KRC. Even on this gloomy day, they were cranking out electricity.

The international engineering firm DNV GL, which specializes in large energy- and sustainability-related projects, has built an array of solar photovoltaic panels behind KRC, each set at a different angle, from 0 degrees (flat) to 45 degrees. “If you tilt them at 60 degrees, almost no snow sticks to the panels, but you also lose a lot of sunlight when they are not facing the sky,” said Tim Townsend, a principal engineer for solar services with DNV GL.

Based on similar studies, year-round losses can be anywhere from a few percent (as found by Michigan Tech in a study looking at Ontario data) to 12 percent (39 degree tilt) to 18 percent (0 degree tilt), which Townsend measured near Lake Tahoe in California. Townsend’s group developed a model to predict how snowfall and other related variables would affect energy generation. Now, they will test their model in collaboration with Michigan Tech using data from the KRC solar array and other test sites in Colorado, Pennsylvania and California.

A small variance in power generation may not make a big difference for a homeowner with solar panels. However, it’s a big deal in industry.

“We do predictions on behalf of commercial lenders being asked to foot the bill for big solar arrays,” said Townsend. Good data “makes them more financeable.” Eventually, the study results will be publicly available through the KRC website and through solar energy simulation programs provided by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“Everybody who wants to develop solar energy in snowy climates on a large scale will need this data,” said Joshua Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering/electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Tech, who is participating in the project. “In the olden days, you’d only see solar farms in places like Arizona, and Spain. Now, large solar installations are found throughout the northern US and Canada.”

Meanwhile, KRC plans to apply the lessons learned from the test solar panels in its own back yard. “Michigan Tech will be going full bore on stopping snow losses,” said KRC Director Jay Meldrum.

In addition, KRC is testing another method to boost its solar power generation. They will be adjusting the panels' angles throughout the year to track the seasonal position of the sun, which is close to the horizon in winter and nearly directly overhead at the summer solstice. "Pointing the array at the proper altitude can help to maximize energy generation while reducing snow losses," Meldrum said. You can view both tests on the KRC webcams.

Marcia Goodrich, writer, mtunews@mtu.edu, 906-487-2343
Joshua Pearce, pearce@mtu.edu, 906-487-1466
Jay Meldrum, jmeldrum@mtu.edu, 906-487-3178

Marcia Goodrich | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.mtu.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

nachricht Urbanization to convert 300,000 km2 of prime croplands
27.12.2016 | Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) gGmbH

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice

17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>