Although those installing solar panels have good intentions, the latest research shows that they may not be the most informed. In the Northern hemisphere, solar panels are generally pointed south but should be pointed west according to energy experts
The Pecan Street Research Institute is a research and development organization headquartered at The University of Texas at Austin, one of the top schools for energy and engineering in the world. Their latest research shows most solar panel systems in the Northern hemisphere are tilted to the south.
It is simple common sense for the panels to be oriented south, in the direction of more overall sunlight. However, that decision only makes sense if the available data on energy demand is ignored. On a daily basis, peak energy demand occurs in the afternoon and evening. West-facing panels are better able to meet that peak demand, as they produce 49% more electricity at that time than south-facing panels do.
Although massive solar farms can afford panel systems that adjust with the sun's daily movements, that technology is not yet practical on a residential scale. The fact that sunlight is not received in a way that aligns with energy demand is one of the most fundamental trade-offs of solar technology as an alternative energy source.
Yet the importance of correct orientation will only increase as more and more individuals (especially those in hot and sunny climates) are making the conscious effort to invest in solar panels, save money in the long-term, and reduce the energy strain on the grid at peak times in peak months.
Therefore, homeowners who want to take the plunge and purchase sustainable energy technology must also educate themselves on how best to use it.
Many will need to start with a re-installed rooftop.
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