Snow Is Not Opaque

This may seem pretty obvious, but to many people, it seems it’s not. I get asked by people wanting to find reasons to justify their belief that solar arrays don’t work in Iowa, “What about when it snows, and the snow covers the panels?” As if I’ll look at them with a newfound glow of epiphany, realizing that I had never thought of that before, and thank them for showing me how wrong I was and that I need to rethink my life now that they have completely deflated my belief in the value of solar energy. My response to their “gotcha” question: “Snow is not opaque.” Then the typical reply? “Oh. Yeah.”

Yep, as anybody who’s built a snow fort or burrowed into the snow as a kid can tell you, snow is translucent. It lets some light through. Sure, an array covered by a few inches of snow (that’s all we get in mid-latitude Iowa, after all) will not produce at full capacity. Generally, you’ll get about the same production as you would get from a bright overcast day. You may get 10-30% of full production, but it’s not zero. In winter, I’ll take every watt I can get!

Leave a Reply