solar panels in a field

Angles, Shading, Space and Direction

Can solar panels face any direction?

[contentblock id=1]There are best practices.  It is recommended in the Northern Hemisphere to face solar panels due south to maximize production. If panels are directed Southeast or Southwest, solar production drops by 5-7%. If you install the panels facing straight East or West, solar production drops 21-24%.  Is it possible? Yes, the systems just won’t produce as much electricity and sometimes incentive programs won’t allow non-southern facing panels.

How much space do I need to install solar panels?

We suggest having at least a 14’ x 6’ south facing space.  That area would be enough space to fit 4 solar panels on your roof.  The more shade-free space you have, the more panels you can install.  The more panels you install, the greater the environmental benefit, financial payback and your impact on energy independence.

How does shading affect solar production?

While a full shading analysis is required to install solar at any site, property owners can get a good idea of how much sun they have by checking for shade a few times at the install site between 9:00AM and 3:00PM.  If there is a 14’ x 6’ space or larger that remains shade free during your test, you probably have a good site for solar energy production.  Tree trimming is always an option too.

What angle should the panel be at to catch the most sun?

Typically the best angle is about equal to the latitude of the installation site (45º in Minnesota).  A solar panel is utilized most effectively when it is positioned perpendicular to the sun.  This is difficult because the sun angle changes daily and seasonally.  While trackers can be used to maximize this effect, most residential installations are “flush mounted” such that the panel is the same angle as the south facing roof area.  The production loss is typically not enough to require costly and complex structural changes to the installation.  Most believe installing the panels flush to the roof line provides the best aesthetics.

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