Gallery: Have We All Been Installing Solar Panels the Wrong Way?


Image of residential solar panels / Shutterstock

Installing solar panels seems pretty straightforward – just aim them south so they get lots of sun all day. But researchers are finding that we may have been doing it wrong this whole time. While studying residential solar power’s impact on the power grid, researchers at Pecan Street Research Institute uncovered an unexpected result: homes with west-facing solar panels generated more power than those with conventional south-facing panels. Depending on the time of day, west-facing solar panels produced at least two percent more power and sometimes much more.

Image from functoruser

In the northern hemisphere, architects, utilities and home owners have long believed that directing solar panels to the south will give them maximum exposure to the sun because they get a bit of sun all day long. But when the Pecan Street researchers studied homes in Austin, Texas, the results showed that south-facing solar panels actually produce less energy. In the afternoon, when energy demand increases, west-facing panels generated even more power.

During peak hours, a typical home with solar panels in Austin reduces reliance on the power grid by 54 percent. That number went up to 65 percent for homes with west-facing panels. That’s a significant power savings right when the grid needs it most. While this is just one study and further testing will be necessary to confirm the findings, there’s a chance that something as simple as shifting the angle of future PV installations could translate to significant solar power production gains.

Via Gizmodo


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  1. higherdestiny May 26, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    As others have commented – I don’t believe they produce more power in absolute terms, but maybe are more matched to peak demand when facing west.

    I’d also point out that in the southern hemisphere, the best orientation is to face North :)

  2. brighteyes December 5, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Really Inhabitat!! Makes me want to UNSUBSCRIBE.
    West facing panels do NOT produce more power. They MIGHT be better matched to demand and so reduce reliance on the grid.
    Peak solar power happens at midday, peak demand in most homes happens in the late afternoon. So if you want to match your homes demand better you orient a little west. BUT the peak power from the panel WILL be less than it might have been at midday.
    To get it right you want to talk to your clever installer about how you use power in your home, how much you pay for electricity, how much your electricity company will pay you for the electricity you generate.

  3. Rolf Engel December 4, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    1 – homes with west-facing solar panels generated more power than those with conventional south-facing panels

    2 – South-Facing Solar Cut Peak Demand from Grid 54% – West-Facing Systems, 65%

    **Cut peak demand**
    This is when it’s around 5 to 7 o in the eve,..

  4. Clayton Schmidt August 4, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    This seems odd that they are just now figuring this out, seems like SOMEONE would have put a meter on their panels and tried various angles until they discovered this to be true if it is so
    Nonetheless, I appreciate the info and will experiment with my panel and see what I find

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