One of the many requests we see all the time has to do with snow retention for solar panels. In most areas, solar installers will design a solar array without any consideration as to snow retention and slide mitigation. When that first storm hits in the fall, this issue usually becomes apparent as we have seen decks blown off the sides of buildings and cars crushed. There are a few options out there from various snow retention companies for snow retention with solar panels present. Rocky Mountain Snow Guards solar solution involves the installation of a taller, bolt down snow fence into the roof support structure, below the panels themselves (see picture).
Some notes on solar snow fence design.... For us to consider this a viable option for recommendation, you need to make sure that you have at least 16"-36" of exposed roof area between the edge of the solar panel and the gutter. This factor is determined by a variety of roof factors present, including the pitch and ground snow load for the area your building is located in. The brackets must be 3 or 4 bar and will be installed backward from our normal recommendation so the bars will actually be on the gutter edge of the eave. There is no difference in the engineered load values by installing the brackets with the tubing (rails) up-slope or down-slope. The air space allowed between the edge of the solar panels and the face of the fence itself is the #1 most important design consideration.
Probably the most important factor in solar snow retention design is to have a licensed, insured roofing contractor in your area assess the project and contact us for layout requirements and design recommendations. The best scenario is to discuss snow retention with your solar installer PRIOR to having your array installed so that you can ensure snow retention will not become a problem after the fact.