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Choosing the Best Location for Solar Panels

Solar-powered calculators, small appliances and various types of lighting are all run with the same technology used to provide solar-generated electricity to entire houses.  Solar panels are made of photovoltaic cells which produce and conduct a current of electricity.  The most important consideration for producing the maximum electrical output, however, is the position of the panels.

While solar technology has been around for some time, solar-powered energy options are now receiving more worldwide attention than ever before as people begin to contemplate the environment and their energy consumption habits.

How Solar Power Works

We are all familiar with solar-powered calculators or landscaping lights that only need a little sunlight to give them life.  The same technology goes into producing solar panels that are installed on houses and the international space station.  Solar panels are made of cells, called photovoltaic cells (PV cells).  These PV cells, which are made of a semiconductor material, are the means by which energy from the sun is converted into electricity.  In very basic terms, when light reaches the cell, some of it is absorbed by a special semiconductor material causing electrons to be jarred free.  The electrical field of the panel forces the freed electrons to flow in a certain direction, producing a current of electricity.

Placement of Solar Panels

Of course, to tap the most energy from the sun, location is everything. You will want your solar panels to receive the maximum amount of direct sunlight during the daylight hours. The solar panels must be placed in optimal locations that are conducive to collecting the sun’s rays in order to achieve maximum electricity output.  Before deciding on a particular location for your solar panels, keep in mind that solar panels produce more electricity when they are positioned perpendicular to the sun.  Having panels that can be adjusted to the sun’s changing angles throughout the year is a desirable feature.

  • Rooftop mounting.  Rooftops are the most common place to install solar panels for good reason.  They have the most sun exposure as well as a minimal amount of blockages.  However, there are drawbacks to installing solar panels on the roof.  Because of their location, they are more expensive to install and more difficult to maintain or re-position. Also keep in mind that the amount of weight that will be placed on your roof could be significant, so always consult with a professional to be sure your structure will be able to support the extra weight.
  • Ground mounting.  Another option is ground installation.  Assuming you have enough space to install solar panels on the ground, this option is cheaper and the panels are more easily serviced or moved should the need arise.  Shade issues are often a problem with ground installation, however.
  • Pole mounting.  Considered by some to be the most efficient option, pole mounting makes up for many of the flaws associated with rooftop and ground mounting.  With pole mounting, your panel can be oriented in the best possible way to take advantage of your area’s solar coverage.  They can also be installed so that that they can be re-positioned at various times during the year in order to gain maximum output.

Positioning the Solar Panels.

In general, solar panels need to face the equator.  That means in the northern hemisphere, panels should face true south.  In the southern hemisphere, panels should face north.  Of course, you may have to adjust a few degrees to compensate for things like landscaping or other buildings.

Also, keep in mind that true north is not the same as magnetic north. If you are using a compass to position your panels, you will need to make corrections for the difference, which varies from place to place.  Just do a search for “magnetic declination” to find the correction for your particular location.

Other Factors to Consider.

Keep in mind that trees and other obstructions might also affect the performance of your solar panels. Care should be taken to assure that broken limbs from nearby trees will not fall on the solar panels and damage them.  It might be best to remove any trees which are close to the solar panels so that they do not shade the panels, or cause damage in case a heavy windstorm dislodges branches.

It is also important to remember that the shadow from a house or other building moves at least 20 feet further to the south in the winter time.  If you do not take this into consideration, you may be setting yourself up for a disappointment during those cold winter days.

Choosing the best location for solar panels will greatly improve their efficiency. In order to receive the most energy possible from your system you will need to consider your location, the climate, and obstructions when planning where to mount them.

Solar panels offer a great way to utilize a free, and abundant renewable resource which will limit the impact of energy consumption on the environment.


Alternative Energy At Northern Tool


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