Monday, January 24, 2011

Snow on Solar Panels

I have been very curious about how snow impacts the panels and on yesterday was a perfect day to do some 'tests' to determine the actual impact of snow.

I had approximately 1 inch of snow on my panels, and this was very light fluffy snow. The day was completely sunny with NO Clouds at all, the PERFECT day for solar panels.

At 9:45AM, the output on the panels, with snow, was 156W. I went and cleared them off. This took approximately 15 minutes. When I checked the output right after I was done clearing them, and the panels were producing 1150W, or approximatly 10 times more with no snow. This is extremely significant and will definitly encourage me to clean them off when possible.

It should be noted that my roof is only 15 degrees or so and I am very careful when I go up on the roof in the winter as it can be very dangerous. I do not recommend doing this for anyone who is not extremely careful AND capeable. I use a nylon broom to clean the panels and the snow comes off very easily assuming it is just snow. If you have ice in there, good luck. My suggestion is to wait it out until it melts it self.

I have no doubt that on a day like yesterday when the sun is shinning all day with NO clouds at all that an inch of snow would have been melted off by 1:00pm but there would have been some missed output until they were cleared that I wanted to capture!

The bottom line is that snow, even only one inch, has a significant impact on the panel performance and so any way possible to clean them will make a big difference during the winter. I would suggest cleaning them with a roof rake of some kind with a very soft attachment to make sure you don't scratch the panels, but I have not tried this yet.

What techniques do you use to clean them, or do you just let the sun take care of it?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cloudy Winter Days and Solar Panels

I am often curious as to how the season and the weather impact the efficiency of panels as it can really have a negative impact depending on the scenario.

At the moment, I can only give a perspective of the winter. I would say that in January, on a sunny day, I could get around 15kWh. From what I have found, is that if you only add clouds (Where most of the day is grey out but the sun peaks through here and there), it cuts the efficiency in half, to somewhere around maybe 8kWh/day.

From what I can see, if you add clouds and snow into the equation, the output is cut by half again, and giving you maybe 3kWh.

So you can quickly see that for strong performance, the sun needs to be out and anything that gets in the way of the sun rays will have a pretty significant impact.

I should also quickly mention that snow on the panels has an enormous impact on the system and that just because it is cold out, does NOT mean that the panels produce less, in fact, panels produce energy more efficiently if they are cooler!

I plan on posting many more posts on performance, whether, snow, and clouds in the future!

Friday, January 21, 2011

My Solar System

I have a roof top Solar PV System. I have 24 Schuco PS 09 panels. Each panel is approximately 3 x 5 and 220 Watts. All the panels put together make up 5.28kW DC. My system was installed in October of 2010 and was hooked up to the grid on Decemeber 3rd. I live in Kitchener, Ontario and would highly recommend using an installer who is able to follow all of the requirements because there are a lot of them. Permits, ESA, and documentation are all things that are required and not always easy to figure out! My inverter is a SMA Sunny Boy 5000 and it is connected to a Sunny Webbox. The Webbox is little hardware device that allows you to monitor multiple inverters. I only have one inverter hooked up to it but it can handle lots. It gives me real time analysis of how my system is working at any given moment and is small and takes up the same space as a cable box or network router. One of the best parts about the Webbox is that it has a built in web browser so you can view the data from anywhere within your home network and it also sends the information up to Sunny Portal that allows you to monitor your system anywhere in the world that has an internet connection. The other thing that is totally awesome about Sunny Portal is that it is completely FREE. Other monitoring systems give you 1 year free and then they have annual fees to be able to monitor regularly. Canadian Solar's monitoring package is like that. Schuco is a German company that has been in the business for a long time and seemed to have a good price point versus quality. The panels have a 25 year, 80% efficiency performance warranty. I am not exactly sure how easy it would be to claim that warranty, but they offer the warranty so that means that you should expect somewhere around 80% efficiency after 20 years, which is the length of my MicroFIT contract. I plan on posting more about the panels, the inverter, and the Webbox in the upcoming weeks! What panel manufacturer did you go with?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Official OPA MicroFIT Contract Offered

Yesterday was a great day when I checked my email and found that the OPA had offered me the final Contract that will pay me 80.2 cents/kWh for the next 20 years. This is the MicroFIT contract in Ontario.

My connection date to the grid was December 3rd so Any power generated since then will be eligible for payment.

I accepted the offer which requried information on the Ontario content rules. I only needed 40% content rule because my conditional contract was from 2010. New content rules for 2011 I believe are 60% Ontario content. I will elaborate more on this in the future!

It took about 7 weeks (plus the Christmas break) to get my local distribution company (LDC) and a couple emails to LDC to get them to send the OPA my connection information and then another week for OPA to finalize the contract and offer it to me.

So, I guess that means that I just have to wait because the cheque should be in the mail soon!

Monday, January 17, 2011

How Much Does It Cost?

Typically people are very interested in the cost of a solar system until they here the cost and then they decide that it is far too expensive to purchase.

When I was doing my research, before I purchased, I was trying to find the 'sweet spot'. I was trying to take advantage of economies of scale while still purchasing something that would NOT destroy my life if things didn't turn out, like the sun stopped shinning! I suppose if the sun stopped shinning we would all have much bigger problems than wasting money on solar panels!

So, how much does the standard setup cost? And what is the standard setup?

To me, the standard setup would be panel installation on the roof with no tracking (follow the sun throughout the day) capabilities.

From my research, I found a very good breakdown that helped me find the 'sweet spot.'

1 to 2 kW --> 10$/W = 10,000$ to 20,000$
3 kW --> 9.25$/W = 27,750$
4 kW --> 8.50$/W = 34,000$

So the next question is naturally, how much did you end up spending on the system? And to that I tell people the same thing. It was around 32,000$ for a 5.28kW system. My panels are Schuco and my inverter is a SMA Sunny Boy. Of course, my price above is plush HST which is a significant amount of money but in Ontario, the HST can be recovered via the HST rules IF you charge HST and remit it to the government. I will eloborate more on this in a future post.

Next post, I will get into the details of my system.

If you have purchased a system, how much did it cost?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Do I use the power I generate?

This is one of the first questions that people ask when they find out that I have solar panels. They want to know if I generate enough power to power my house.

My answer is always the same, "I don't use any of it, I sell it all". This usually catches people off guard because they assume that the intent is to be 'off the grid' so to speak. This while has benefits such as self sufficiency, and the ability to have power if there were ever another black out, but is really not very advantages because of the government of Ontario's MicroFIT program.

This program essentially makes it foolish to use any of the power because the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) is willing to pay 80.2 cents/kWh and KW Hydro only charges 6.5 cents/KWh at the moment. The other benefit is that I don't need to store any energy via batteries so the cost is lower to get going. So, the long and short of it is that all power generated is sent directly to the power grid!

In the future, I will be talking much more about this contract that I have with the OPA and the benefits and drawbacks that are sure to encounter along my journey.


Welcome to my new blog. On this blog you will find all the little tidbits of information that I have found out about Solar Panels. All of this is coming from a perspective from Ontario, Canada!