We have all heard realtors say that the price of our home is determined by “Location! Location! Location!” and the same is true for solar panels. It is not a “who” decides where to place your solar panels; but a “what” and that what is Mother Nature, herself. So resist the urge to tamper with what will be a straightforward diagnostic assessment of where to place your panels because you will feel it in your checkbook if your panels are not placed optimally.
A Solar Energy Generation System is a big investment of both time and resources for the homeowner so an analysis should be done to determine the best placement. This should be done a professional or someone who has taken the time to develop skills in this area.
The sun bathes the earth with more energy each minute than the world consumes in one year. But, except in the tropics, the sun is never directly overhead and its intensity varies by season. For example, at a latitude of 45°, solar radiation may vary from 92% (early summer) to 38% (early winter) of theoretical maximum insolation. The average intensity at this latitude is 71% (early spring and fall) of maximum.
Global conditions– plus local variations such as cloud cover, topography, and altitude– cause solar to be a variable resource. But straight solar insolation values may be deceptive because they ignore the capacity value from PV. Recent work by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is showing that high levels of solar insolation are not a necessary condition for finding good sites for PV. So it all comes back to location coupled with position, placement, and orientation.
Usually, solar panels are mounted on rooftops, but they can also be placed on the ground, over parking lots and exterior corridors. Depending on the conditions and setting of the property, as well as the amount of energy required, any of these positions may provide for maximum sunlight. The various factors that determine positioning and orientation include the direction at which the roof and/or property is facing, the angle or tilt of the roof, the roof’s strength, the type of weather such as rain, hail, and snow that hits the area year-round, and of course any obstructions that may cause shading. Rooftops are popular places for solar but sometimes roof-mounting isn’t practical due to certain limitations such as space. So, in cases like that, ground-mounting may be the best option.
Unexpected shading regardless of how small can make a huge impact on how much cumulative energy you’re truly receiving. Just because your property doesn’t have any big obstructive trees, it doesn’t mean that the neighborhood palm tree couldn’t shadow your home at some point in the day even if it seems far away. If you want to find out where the best placement for your solar panels would be, it would be a good idea to ask a solar expert who can actually measure the amount of shade that falls on your property throughout the day and give you the best recommendation for solar system placement. Or, read my articles and become your own expert! I am seeing stained glass windows now that are really solar panels. So maybe the home installation one day will include both roofs and windows!
See You Next Time! Dr. Stripling