Sunday, January 29, 2023

Solar angles

So how did I adjust the angle of my solar panels? 

The angle is decided by your latitude. As for myself I’m close enough to the 45th parallel for it to be my baseline. What that means is that my solar panels are perfectly adjusted to the proper sun angle during the equinoxes. 

My solar panels can be adjusted to either 30, 45, or 60 degrees. It’s a simple system. The panels are mounted on a pivoting rack. The angle is adjusted by moving two support arms to one of three ½ threaded rods mounted on the pole. All I have to do is to remove a couple of nuts to move the supports to a different rod. It’s low tech and simple -and robust. 

The 30 degree setting pretty much gets me through the summer. The 45 setting is good for spring and fall. 

Right now, in the winter, they are set at 60 degrees to catch the low winter sun. That steep angle works out fairly well as the snow slides easily off the panels. One of the tricks is to mount the panels with the long dimension straight up and down. That makes it easier for the snow to slide off. 

If I had to pick one angle for the panels year round it would be the 60 degree winter angle. It’s the most efficient angle for the winter, the time when I need to capture every photon available. While not maximizing the panel efficiency the rest of the year, the longer days make up for it. 

So how about tracking the sun east to west? It’s not worth it in northern climates. It’s probably not worth it most places. Instead of spending money on an expensive tracking system, just add more panels. Right now that looks more cost efficient. Point your panels due south and call it good.

Actually, my panels aren’t quite due south. That’s due to my location. My house is on the side of the hill that blocks the early morning sun, but I get more sun later in the day. With that in mind my panels point just a tad more west than due south. 

I had a good year to save up money and plan my installation. One of the things I did with that year was to take regular observations on where the sunshine fell. By the time I was ready to install the solar array  I knew exactly where it had to go and which trees needed to be cut. 

Lately the solar panels have been producing a fair amount of power again. The days are a bit longer and  we’ve had more sunny days. Sun reflecting off the snow adds significantly to the amount of solar gain. You can get a similar effect next to a body of water. I’ve a little 50 watt panel powering a shed by the lake and it produces all I need. 


1 comment:

  1. Does the slight shift in declination effect your sun exposure at all?