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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2012-10-24 17:00:00
  • Article ID: 595381

Let It Snow! Solar Panels Can Take It

  • Credit: R. Andrews

    The Open Solar Outdoors Test Field, where researchers studied the effect of snow on solar panels' power generating capacity.

Snow and solar cells aren't mutually exclusive, according to a Michigan Technological University scientist. Photovoltaic panels can be well worth the investment even if you live in a winter wonderland.

True, a layer of snow can cause a solar-cell blackout for awhile. But not many locales enjoy heavy snow for more than a few months. And even in the bleak midwinter, panels don't usually stay snow-covered for long.

"Sometimes snow actually helps solar cells," says Michigan Tech's Joshua Pearce. He's referring to the albedo effect, when sunlight reflects off snow. It can make a panel generate more electricity in the same way that it gives skiers sunburn on sunny winter days.

With researchers from St. Lawrence College and Queen's University, in Kingston, Ontario, and a team of 20 industry partners, Pearce studied the effect of snow on the Open Solar Outdoors Test Field. They created a computer model to predict how much power generation would decline in various amounts of snow cover and on different types of solar modules mounted at different angles, from flat to steeply pitched. Then they validated their model with data from many of Ontario's huge commercial solar farms.

"In most cases power losses are minimal, even in snowy Canada," Pearce said. However, the group has developed a model that can be used to design the most efficient photovoltaic systems, no matter how much snow is in the area.

Pearce and R. W. Andrews have authored paper based on a preliminary study, “Prediction of Energy Effects on Photovoltaic Systems Due to Snowfall Events," published in proceedings of the 2012 38th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference. pp. 003386-003391. The paper is freely available at www.academia.edu/1991659/Prediction_of_Energy_Effects_on_Photovoltaic_Systems_due_to_Snowfall_Events

Joshua Pearch, pearce@mtu.edu, 906-487-1466

Marcia Goodrich, writer, mtunews@mtu.edu, 906-487-2343

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Researchers Customize Catalysts to Boost Product Yields, Decrease Chemical Separation Costs

For some crystalline catalysts, what you see on the surface is not always what you get in the bulk, according to two studies led by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Innovative Design Using Loops of Liquid Metal Can Improve Future Fusion Power Plants, Scientists Say

Article describes proposed design for production of steady-state plasma in future fusion power plants.

Scientists Create Most Powerful Micro-Scale Bio-Solar Cell Yet

Researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York have created a micro-scale biological solar cell that generates a higher power density for longer than any existing cell of its kind.

ESnet's Science DMZ Design Could Help Transfer, Protect Medical Research Data

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Breakthrough Cuttable, Flexible, Submersible and Ballistic-Tested Lithium-ion Battery Offers New Paradigm of Safety and Performance

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Chemical Treatment Improves Quantum Dot Lasers

One of the secrets to making tiny laser devices such as opthalmic surgery scalpels work even more efficiently is the use of tiny semiconductor particles, called quantum dots. In new research at Los Alamos National Laboratory's Nanotech Team, the ~nanometer-sized dots are being doctored, or "doped," with additional electrons, a treatment that nudges the dots ever closer to producing the desired laser light with less stimulation and energy loss.

Neutrons Observe Vitamin B6-Dependent Enzyme Activity Useful for Drug Development

Scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have performed neutron structural analysis of a vitamin B6-dependent protein, potentially opening avenues for new antibiotics and drugs to battle diseases such as drug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria and diabetes. Specifically, the team used neutron crystallography to study the location of hydrogen atoms in aspartate aminotransferase, or AAT, an enzyme vital to the metabolism of certain amino acids.

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PPPL Takes Detailed Look at 2-D Structure of Turbulence in Tokamaks

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A new method that precisely measures the mysterious behavior and magnetic properties of electrons flowing across the surface of quantum materials could open a path to next-generation electronics. A team of scientists has developed an innovative microscopy technique to detect the spin of electrons in topological insulators, a new kind of quantum material that could be used in applications such as spintronics and quantum computing.


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Department of Energy Awards Flow Into Argonne

DOE Secretary Rick Perry awarded Argonne with nearly $4.7 million in projects as part of the DOE's Office of Technology Transition's Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF) in September.

NIH Awards $6.5 Million to Berkeley Lab for Augmenting Structural Biology Research Experience

The NIH has awarded $6.5 million to Berkeley Lab to integrate existing synchrotron structural biology resources to better serve researchers. The grant will establish a center based at the Lab's Advanced Light Source (ALS) called ALS-ENABLE that will guide users through the most appropriate routes for answering their specific biological questions.

LIGO Announces Detection of Gravitational Waves From Colliding Neutron Stars

The U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory and the Virgo detector in Italy announced on Oct. 16 that all three of their detectors had picked up the ripples, or gravitational waves, from two neutron stars that collided 130 million years ago. Among other discoveries, the detection allowed scientists to use gravitational waves to directly calculate the rate at which the universe is expanding.

WVU Energy Conference to Address State's Economic Opportunities

West Virginia University will look at the state's emerging energy economy through industry experts, public policy organizations, environmental groups and academic institutions at the sixth annual National Energy Conference Oct. 20.

Exploring the Exotic World of Quarks and Gluons at the Dawn of the Exascale

As nuclear physicists delve ever deeper into the heart of matter, they require the tools to reveal the next layer of nature's secrets. Nowhere is that more true than in computational nuclear physics. A new research effort led by theorists at DOE's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) is now preparing for the next big leap forward in their studies thanks to funding under the 2017 SciDAC Awards for Computational Nuclear Physics.

Matthew Latimer Receives 2017 Lytle Award

A staff member at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Acceleratory Laboratory, Matthew Latimer is in charge of seven spectroscopy beamlines at SSRL. He was recently selected for the 2017 Farrel W. Lytle Award, established by the SSRL Users' Organization Executive Committee. The award promotes accomplishments in synchrotron science and supports collaboration among visiting scientists and staff who conduct research at SSRL.

Jefferson Lab Completes 12 GeV Upgrade

Nuclear physicists are now poised to embark on a new journey of discovery into the fundamental building blocks of the nucleus of the atom. The completion of the 12 GeV Upgrade Project of the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) heralds this new era to image nuclei at their deepest level.

Sunderrajan to Lead Science and Technology Partnerships and Outreach Directorate

Suresh Sunderrajan has been named the associate laboratory director (ALD) for the Science and Technology Partnerships and Outreach (STPO) Directorate at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.

Career Awards Advance Research for Jefferson Lab Researchers

Two researchers affiliated with the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility have received 2017 Early Career Research Program awards from the DOE's Office of Science.

U.S. Department of Energy Awards Danforth Center $16M to Enhance Sorghum for Bioenergy

This project aims to deliver stress-tolerant sorghum lines, addressing DOE's mission in the generation of renewable energy resources.


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Discovering the Genetic Timekeepers in Bioenergy Crops

A new class of plant-specific genes required for flowering control in temperate grasses is found.

New Technology Illuminates Microbial Dark Matter

Demonstrating the microfluidic-based, mini-metagenomics approach on samples from hot springs shows how scientists can delve into microbes that can't be cultivated in a laboratory.

Tiny Green Algae Reveal Large Genomic Variation

First complete picture of genetic variations in a natural algal population could help explain how environmental changes affect global carbon cycles.

A Complex Little Alga that Lives by the Sea

The genetic material of Porphyra umbilicalis reveals the mechanisms by which it thrives in the stressful intertidal zone at the edge of the ocean.

Precise Radioactivity Measurements: A Controversy Settled

Simultaneous measurements of x-rays and gamma rays emitted in radioactive nuclear decays show that the vacancy left by an electron's departure, not the atomic structure, influences whether gamma rays are released.

OLYMPUS Experiment Sheds Light on Inner Workings of Protons

Seven-year study explains how packets of light are exchanged when protons meet electrons.

Explorations of the Universal Glue

The newly upgraded CEBAF Accelerator opens door to strong force studies.

Understanding the Rice Genome for Bioenergy Research

Genome-wide rice studies yield first major, large-scale collection of mutations for grass model crops, vital to boosting biofuel production.

Bringing Visual "Magic" to Light

Scientists create widely controllable ultrathin optical components that allow virtual objects to be projected in real environments.

Speeding Materials Discovery Puts Solar Fuels on the Fast Track to Commercial Viability

In just two years, a process that was developed by Molecular Foundry staff and users has nearly doubled the number of materials with the potential for using sunlight to produce fuel.


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