Trends in Solar PV Growth in Snowy Climates and Impact on Resource Adequacy

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


Solar installations are increasing in cold-weather U.S. states. Snow cover decreases the amount of light received by photovoltaic (PV) panels, reducing their output. The widespread use of solar generation in a grid system may amplify this issue. However, researchers have yet to model the effect of snow cover on high-penetration PV grids. Although electricity grids with high levels of photovoltaic installations have been modeled, those models do not include the impact of snow. This research investigates the need for resource adequacy modeling that includes snow by utilizing current and projected utility PV capacity. High-penetration and mid-case utility PV scenarios were examined on a state level and compared to annual average snowfall. In both scenarios, Colorado, Michigan, New York, Wisconsin, and Minnesota stand out as high-snowfall states with utility PV compound annual growth rates of 5% or higher. Although the results show that there is a negative relationship between snowfall and projected PV growth per state, some states with high snowfall may still see a significant increase in utility PV capacity over the next 28 years. In addition to the state-level analysis, a utility-level analysis was performed using NSIDC snow data and utility IRP projections. The results of this step show that there are utilities in the northern Midwest with utility PV projections as high as 6500 MW by 2040. Even utilities with lower PV projections display elevated compound annual growth rates.

Publication Title

Conference Record of the IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference