In colder regions there are also solar panels. But when the snow accumulates, they are no longer able to capture energy efficiently. According to him Sandia National Lab de EE.UU, snow accumulation causes energy losses of between 1% and 12% per year, with some months where the snow makes it impossible to generate energy directly. If we add to this the possible damage to the durability of solar panels, we have that snow is a great enemy of solar panels.
To solve this problem, Scientists at the University of Michigan have created a coating system to ensure that snow does not form on top of the solar panels, even in extreme situations with sub-zero temperatures down to -35ºC.
A 50μm clear coat
The research has been awarded $ 170,000 by the ‘Solar Energy Technology Office’, although it is a test encompassed within the work of Professor Anish Tuteja, who has been working for years on how to protect surfaces to prevent them from being seen affected by external factors.
The Tuteja’s work has been subsidized with up to 8.8 million dollars and among his projects he explains that the “objective is to develop coatings that allow the rapid removal of snow accumulated by its own weight. This would allow the solar panels to continue generating electricity during the winter. “
Published in the magazine ‘Advanced Materials Technologies’, the system consists of a optically clear 50 micron coating, with great hardness and with a minimum adherence to the snow. This layer has been manufactured with a medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil solution to plasticize two polyvinyl chlorides (MC2 and MC6). Two different polymers that in the tests showed an effectiveness of 61 and 32% respectively, in reducing the presence of snow.
These two solutions MC2 and MC6 were tested on 72-cell solar panels measuring two meters wide by one meter high. Some photovoltaic panels connected to a public utility company in Alaska.
The tests were carried out in the winters of 2019 and 2020, for 77 days, with an inclination of 45 degrees to facilitate that the snow slides by the solar panel, thanks to the low grip obtained by the layer.
While the uncoated panels were completely covered in snow, in the case of the MC2 solution, it was achieved that the snow was only in 27.7% of the area. In the case of the MC6 solution, the area covered was 45.4% on average.
“We believe that the cost of material is quite low, I would estimate it at less than a dollar per square meter”, explains Tuteja to PV Magazine. It is still in the research phase, but if this coating is successful it would allow to significantly increase the production of solar energy, mainly in those areas where the abundant snow prevents these solar panels from working properly.
Via | New Scientist