In light of the recent severe storms that have affected the entire Northeast, Solect Energy, a commercial-scale solar energy provider based in Massachusetts, has provided the following guidelines for solar system owners to help them better manage their solar assets during and after storms.
Dealing with snow: Solar energy systems are designed to bear the weight of snow and can handle the additional loads. Owners should not try to clear snow themselves but instead call a qualified professional familiar with solar panels. Many solar companies will provide this service.
Emergency power: Many people wrongly believe that a solar energy system will provide them power during an outage. However, when the power goes out on your street, the solar energy system is required to shut off in order to protect the crew repairing the lines. In other words, if you lose power from the grid, the system will shut down. However, solar can be used to provide emergency power if it is paired with an energy storage system (a battery).
Out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind: Solar systems are quiet and located on the roof where owners don’t really think about them. However storms can potentially affect the performance of a system and owners may not be aware of the problem, losing valuable revenue–perhaps for months. Solar companies can now monitor for problems remotely and let the owner know if there is a problem.
You aren’t losing a lot of revenue: True, snow can block sunlight and limit the amount of energy being produced by the solar panels. However, keep in mind that the original investment analysis will usually included an assumption that there would be days when the panels are covered with snow. The danger and risk of damaging the system by clearing the snow yourself far outweigh the negligible benefit of clearing the snow.
Cold and snow can be advantageous: Electronics don’t like hot weather and solar energy systems run more efficiently when it is colder. Melting snow can also act as a natural cleaner. Similar to a squeegee, as snow melts off the panel it can remove grime, bird droppings and other residues that may have collected on the panels.
Get your system checked after the storm: Owners may not be aware that their system is damaged so it’s a good idea to get it checked after a storm. You may consider an on-going monitoring service offered by some solar companies that constantly monitors the system’s efficiency, identifies outages in real time and can quickly dispatch crews to make repairs.
News item from Solect Energy