The effect of snowfall on the power output of photovoltaic solar panels in Halifax, NS
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The issues of global warming and climate change and how we reduce the global impact of these problems have been at the forefront of many discussions between government bodies, world organizations and the general public. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, one of the main drivers of climate change is carbon dioxide emissions (IPCC, 2007). Since an anthropogenic source of CO2 emissions is the combustion of fossil fuels, the Government of Canada, as well as many other government bodies, have developed multiple strategies to combat the problem of climate change, one of which being substituting conventional energy production, usually in the form of fossil fuels, for clean and renewable energy technologies such as solar power (IPCC, 2007; Environment Canada, 2010). Further, the Nova Scotia Department of Energy has committed to increasing the electricity created by renewable energy to 25 percent of the total electricity use by 2015, and to 40 percent by 2020 (Nova Scotia Department of Energy, 2010). Although there are many different forms of renewable energy such as wind, biomass and geothermal, it is expected that solar energy will play a prominent role in providing both developing and developed countries with clean and renewable energy (Sen, 2004; IPCC, 2007). When looking at Canada, issues such as snow accumulation on PV panels need to be addressed before concluding that solar power is a viable alternative to conventional energy production. The design of these panels allows the PV arrays to withstand harsh environmental conditions such as extreme heat or cold, but during the winter season, build-up of snow and ice can occur on the PV panels. Although the PV arrays are not physically damaged by the severe winter conditions, accumulation of snow or ice could lead to decreases in energy output as long as the panels are covered by precipitation. This is because the build-up of snow or ice on the PV panels could prevent the incoming solar radiation from penetrating the PV arrays (Usher et al., 1994; Ross, 1995; Powers et al., 2010). To date, there are few studies that have investigated the issue of snow cover on PV panels, especially in Nova Scotia. This study will help to fill this knowledge gap in Nova Scotia.