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is it worth it to put solar panels on a seasonal residence (used 3 months of the year)? Answered

i work at a summer camp and i am currently working on a project to green the grounds. we want to do solar panels but there is some concern about the camp only being occupied for june, july and august. can they be snowed on in the winter if there is no one there to sweep them off? can we sell the energy back to the grid that is produced in the off months?



9 years ago

I'm pretty sure that commercial solar panels are designed to be weather-tight, so you don't need to worry about them being damaged. However, even a small bit of snow accumulation will severely affect their performance, so it's unlikely that there would be much power to sell back to the utility. You would probably run into a lot of roadblocks and red tape trying to sell power back to the power company in the first place. I suggest setting up a solar water heater system instead. You'll still save a lot of energy, and it won't cost nearly as much to set up and maintain. You may also want to set up a few wind turbines, which are less expensive per watt to install.

          Perhaps a bit of that electrical tape that keeps pipes from freezing could heat the inside of a solar cell housing enough to keep snow melted off of the glass. Or if a hot water solar panel is available a hot water loop could run into the solar cell box. If there is enough light available there has to be a solution to this problem.

Well, if you're going to heat the solar cells with electricity, there isn't much point in installing solar cells in the first place!

But, your idea of using a solar water heater to keep the solar cells clear is a good one.  Since the hot water won't be used in the winter for anything but this, you could install a valve that just keeps hot water running in a closed loop to keep the panels clear.  Then in the summer you could flip the valve over and use the electricity for the camp, and the hot water for the showers.

I also work at a summer camp and am working on this same project! Since you posted your question, have you made any progress with getting solar panels?  My camp is in Connecticut. Any advice you could give me in regards to obtaining these; ie, costs, maintenance, set-up, payback, etc. would be very greatly appreciated, thanks!

I agree with Rishnai that calling the power co is the best place to start. You will want to ask the following- What system/installation requirements do they have for grid tied systems? How much do they pay for REC's (renewable energy credits) ? Are the REC's calculated based on system size or are they performance based? Is the REC payment up front or spread out over several years? How much do they pay for power sent back to the grid? What are the caps or restrictions on system size, REC purchases, or electricity buybacks? All power co's in the US are now legally bound to purchase REC's and electricity produced from qualifying alternative energy sources at a minimum of their wholesale rate. Some power companies offer great incentives, are flexible and easy to work with, and will even help you with many of the details. Others have strict system and installation requirements, offer the bare minimum incentives, and will try to make the process very difficult. You will also want to find out all of the various incentive programs the system and the camp would qualify for, as much of the initial cost may be able to be offset by state and federal tax breaks, especially if you are able to spread the install out over two tax years.

I have lived in a solar powered cabin for more than 20 years. It works for me only because I have found ways to severely minimize the power that I use. Most Americans are not willing to cut their power consumption to that degree. Solar electric panels are useful, but once the snow hits, they will stop generating useful energy. A solar electric system at this time, is not going to break even, even if you sell the excess energy back to the grid.

I think there's a federal law that the power company must pay wholesale rates for any electricity you want to sell to them. Of course, you must meet their specs, and that isn't cheap! Green is the place to be nowadays!

I see many houses and cabins here in Colorado that get large amounts of snow on their solar arrays. I assume that at least a few hardy souls are still in them in the winter, and scrape them off now and then. It's a losing battle... The people who have solar summer homes have probably ran off to warmer climes...

Provided no water gets IN your panels, snow won't hurt them. You can sell whatever energy you make, but I'm unaware of the specifics in your area. Calling your power company sounds like a good place to start.