Snow Sensing for Photovoltaic Single Axis Tracker Systems

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


With the rapid deployment of photovoltaic (PV) systems around the world, PV is expanding in northern climate regions where snowfall is a major challenge for solar PV farms. Single axis trackers (SATs) increase the generation of solar plant at a competitive price and using bifacial panels is most effective in snow clad white ground due to high albedo. The objective of this project is to design and validate a snow measurement system that can measure snow on the top of moving panels by using laser-based sensors and digital image capture and to develop advanced tracker controls for improved snow shedding and higher efficiency in winters. The study is complemented by power generation measurement at panel and string levels as well as plane of array solar irradiation; meteorological data at the location is recorded for the correct weather assessment and ultrasonic snow depth measurement at ground level provides a comparison for snow measurements. The target panels are observed by various cameras to provide a holistic image of snowfall and shedding events. Considering the need for correct measurement of snow on the surface of PV panels, a snow measurement system enables the development of an empirical classification that can help in correlation of the angles needed to shed the snow. Snow shedding is an important factor in northern climates as it can increase the period for which the PV panels are generating power. This paper focuses on the novel snow measurement system design and prototype that measures snow on the top of moving solar PV panels.

Publication Title

Conference Record of the IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference