Worried about the efficiency of your solar panels taking a dip along with the temperatures? As we’ve discussed before, it’s actually not a big concern – solar panels produce energy from light, not heat, so cold temperatures themselves won’t affect production.
However, when snow and ice starts to pile up enough to prevent light from reaching the surface of the panel, it starts to take a toll on solar production.
In most climates, even this is seldom cause for concern. Due to the smooth glass surface and tilted angle panels are typically installed at, snow usually slides off pretty quickly. Solar production is also a long game, in which hours and days of weather-related production dips are all part of the cycle. That said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to minimize these interruptions when practical, and a team of researchers at the University of Michigan recently unveiled a new product that can do just that.
The research team developed a simple spray-on coating that can prevent snow and ice from accumulating on solar panels altogether, and, in especially harsh conditions, could help panels shed snow much faster.
The coating is made of PVC and vegetable oil. It works by being slippery enough to allow small pieces of ice and snow to slide right off while also cracking large pieces of ice into smaller pieces that subsequently slide off.
The researchers tested it in Alaska and it reduced snow coverage on a solar field from 59 percent on uncoated panels to 28 percent on panels that had the mixture sprayed on.
Currently, the coating lasts up to one year, but the researchers are working on extending that time window.
The research team has not announced when their product will hit the market, but for homeowners in areas with frequent snowfall, it’s worth keeping an eye out for. We’ll update you when we know when to expect this product’s availability.