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June 30, 2015 | The Factors Affecting the Output of Your Solar Installation
If you’re planning a business or industrial solar installation or already reap the benefits of solar energy, you should be aware of a number of factors that can affect the efficiency of your system. Consultation with a reputable, experienced solar energy specialist can make sure you get the most from your current or future installation and avoid any pitfalls along the way and throughout the operating life of your system.
Here are a few factors you should be aware of that can affect how well your system performs:
Latitude — How far are you from the equator? Obviously, the closer a location is to the equator, the more direct sunlight it receives. The closer to the equator, the more consistent the sunlight throughout the day. So a solar installation in Arizona will receive more consistent, direct sun exposure throughout the year than an array in Minnesota, where the sun’s changing angle affects system performance from summer to winter.
Weather and Climate — It stands to reason that a dry, desert climate with consistent weather will yield greater energy production than a wetter climate with many cloudy or overcast days. That’s why so many massive solar installations are in places like Death Valley or the southwestern states. That doesn’t mean solar will be too expensive or uneconomical if you’re subject to the lake effect weather patterns of the upper Midwest or the multi-seasonal cloud cover of the rainy Northwest, just that your solar designer will have to employ different techniques and technologies to deliver the maximum solar performance for your system.
Local Environmental Conditions — Locales with heavy smog, industrial pollutants, or airborne particulates can compromise solar system performance in those areas. Solar panels can become clouded with film and dust that must be removed periodically to allow maximum sun exposure to keep energy production at rated levels.
Temperature — You’d think that more environmental heat means more energy from your solar panels. Actually, hotter temperatures reduce performance of solar installations. So temperatures hotter than 77 degrees will reduce performance by a fraction of a percentage point for each degree of temperature. But during sunny, cloudless days in cooler seasons, energy output can exceed the system’s maximum rated capacity.
Placement — Where your system is situated is one of the main considerations for maximizing your solar investment. Solar installations are frequently placed on rooftops to avoid shading from trees or nearby buildings. Where ample unobstructed space is available, ground-mounted systems can also be cost-effective and efficient. Although more costly to buy and maintain, systems that track the sun throughout the day to maximize energy production can pay off big in long-term savings.
With solar, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Every site is different, every locale has its own pluses and minuses, and every customer needs a system tailored to their specific circumstances.