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Cool: Double-Sided Solar Panels More Efficient in Snow


3The world of solar is full of success stories. It is amazing to see how people can adjust to any environmental condition, only to be able to acquire the energy they need in the most effective and sustainable way.

One such story comes from Japan, or the area of Asahikawa City, Hokkaido, to be exact. In their search for the best solution to handling thick and persistent snow cover during the long winter season, Nishiyama Sakata Denki, the local electric facility company, discovered that double-sided solar panels not only cope with snow, but also turn it into a mean to boost efficiency.

For quite some time, Asahikawa has been considered as a place where solar power plants will not function effectively. The reason for this is the harsh winter with thick snow cover, which often remains throughout the whole season due to the below-zero temperatures. The introduction of feed-in tariff program in mid-2012 did trigger some interest of major investors, however they quickly backed out after visiting the location.

Despite all, Nishiyama Sakata Denki Co Ltd decided to go ahead and build two solar power plants. Both began operation in late 2013, the smaller one having a 250kW output and the significantly larger one with 1.25MW output.  To ensure that the snow slips off and does not attach, the panels at both plants are positioned at a 40 degrees angle and set at 1.8 meters of the ground.

Although such precautions are taken, they cannot be sufficient to handle the snow. This is why Nishiyama Sakata Denki had to come up with an additional setting. They introduced double-sided solar panels, which generate power on both sides thanks to a special power generating cell. Opposite to all expectations, these panels not only generated more electricity, but they also made the snow slip off much easier, as the panels were heated from below. The guys at Nishiyama Sakata Denki were also very pleased to discover that in a snowy region, the reverse side is extra efficient because it receives the reflected by the snow rays.

The manufacturers of the panels, PVG Solutions, estimated that if the ground below the panels is covered with snow, the efficiency of the double-sided panels is increased by 2%. In addition, they claim that if the ground underneath the panels is painted in white, it would be possible that the panels become the most efficient among all mass-produced ones. Following this advice, the directors of  Nishiyama Sakata Denki are now seriously considering to cover the ground under the panels with a white material for the time of the year when snow is not present.

Regardless of all challenges, the two solar power plants are working smoothly. The success of the venture is a remarkable example, which clearly illustrates that “where there is a will, there is a way.”

Image (c) Nishiyama Sakata Denki

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