Most Solar Panels Installed In Wrong Direction: Why Has Conventional Wisdom Misled Us For So Long?

By Ajit Jha on November 19, 2013 11:38 AM EST

Solar panel installation
A man installing photovoltaic solar panels on a roof. For years, we've been putting these panels in facing the wrong direction. (Photo: Shutterstock)

You might think solar panels should face the direction of the sun, just like basking reptiles and leaves, in nature. According to the conventional wisdom handed down from architects and town planners, windows and solar panels, especially in homes should face south, in the northern hemisphere.       

Like Us on Facebook

More precisely, the current expert advise on solar panel installation would inform you that solar panels should face true north or true south depending on whether you are in southern or northern hemisphere, respectively. Incidentally, true north and magnetic north are different. In addition, the expert advice on solar panel tilt from horizontal is that the "tilt should be equal to latitude plus 15 degrees in winter and minus 15 degrees in summer."

However, new studies on the best possible direction and tilt of solar panels for optimal harvest of solar energy indicate that, in the Northern Hemisphere, solar panels installed facing west instead of south produce more electricity, according to scientists at the Pecan Street Research Institute

The Pecan Street Research Institute study claims that west-facing panels produce 49 percent more electricity during peak demand time in comparison to south-facing panels. 

This was a single study of homes in Austin, Texas, according to which, over the course of a day, the homeowners with west facing panels generated 2 percent more electricity than homeowners with south facing panels.

If we were to examine production curves of south and west facing solar panels, they would look more or less similar, but one of the curves will appear shifted slightly to the right, which makes a huge difference because peak demand is in that direction. Peak demand time is when everybody requires electrical consumption at the same time. In other words, it is not just how much electricity is produced but when it is produced that is important.

In addition to more electricity production, there are several other benefits of west-facing panels. The household electricity usage during the time when electricity is most needed and most expensive is considerably reduced in households with west-facing panels. This is the time when power grids become overloaded, yet households with west-facing panels reduced their electricity usage by 65 percent during "peak times" of 3pm to 7pm in Texas, as in other places. In comparison, south-facing panels reduced their electricity usage during these hours.   

Evidently, this finding has several implications. Households could save in electricity especially where electricity tariffs go up during peak hour consumption. Simply reorienting solar panels could entail huge savings for households. Those who are yet to install one, two or more solar panels will do well to choose west, not south, in light of the findings.  

Photo above courtesy of Shutterstock.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Join the Conversation

Sponsored From Around the Web

    ZergNet
Follow iScience Times
us on facebook RSS
 
us on google
 
Most Popular
INSIDE iScience Times
Do Dolphins Get High? BBC Cameras Catch Dolphins Chewing On Pufferfish Toxins
Do Dolphins Get High? BBC Cameras Catch Dolphins Chewing On Pufferfish Toxins
How Many Ways Can You Tie A Tie?
How Many Ways Can You Tie A Tie?
Ribbon Of Charged Particles At Solar System's Edge Acts Like A Wind Sock For Interstellar Magnetism
Ribbon Of Charged Particles At Solar System's Edge Acts Like A Wind Sock For Interstellar Magnetism
How to Turn Your Tap Water Faucet  Into a Coffee Spout [VIDEO]
How to Turn Your Tap Water Faucet Into a Coffee Spout [VIDEO]
Coolest Science Photos Of 2013: From Blobfish To Two-Headed Shark, Comet ISON To Mars Selfie
Coolest Science Photos Of 2013: From Blobfish To Two-Headed Shark, Comet ISON To Mars Selfie
This Is A Scientifically-Proven Rock-Paper-Scissors Winning Strategy (But If Your Opponent Uses It Too, It's A Draw)
This Is A Scientifically-Proven Rock-Paper-Scissors Winning Strategy (But If Your Opponent Uses It Too, It's A Draw)