Electrical and Computer Engineering Publications

Image Analysis Method for Quantifying Snow Losses on PV Systems

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Conference Proceeding

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Conference Record of the IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference

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Modeling and predicting snow-related power loss is important to economic calculations, load management and system optimization for all scales of photovoltaic (PV) power plants. This paper describes a new method for measuring snow shedding from fielded modules and also describes the application of this method to a commercial scale PV power plant in Vermont with two subsystems, one with modules in portrait orientation and the other in landscape. The method relies on time-series images taken at 5 minute intervals to capture the dynamics of module-level snow accumulation and shedding. Module-level images extracted from the full-field view are binarized into snow and clear areas, allowing for the quantification of percentage snow coverage, estimation of resulting module power output, and temporal changes in snow coverage. Preliminary data from the Vermont case study suggests that framed modules in portrait orientation outperform their framed counterparts in landscape orientation by as much as 24% energy yield during a single shedding event. While these data reflect a single event, and do not capture snow shedding behavior across diverse temperature and other climatic conditions, the study nonetheless demonstrates that 1) module orientation and position in the array influence shedding patterns; 2) the start of power production and bypass diode activation differ for portrait and landscape module orientations at similar percentages and orientations of snow coverage; and 3) system design is an important factor in snow mitigation and increased system efficiency in snowy climates.

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