3 things that could affect your solar panel’s efficiency

Emeka grew up on a farm. For as long as he could remember his dad had practiced animal husbandry and reared goats, pigs, and chickens. Growing up on a farm was strenuous as everything was done manually. In time, however, the farm expanded and needed some form of power. His dad saved up and bought a generator and as the farm and its operations expanded, the size of the generator increased as well, digging a huge hole into their pockets.

Many years later, Emeka bought a solar energy system and had some technicians install it for the farm. The solar system worked satisfactorily for a while but upon further investigation, it was discovered that it was not performing optimally for a newly installed system. Upon seeking technical advice, Emeka discovered that there were 3 factors that were responsible for the less than optimal output of the solar energy system, first was the hot temperature, the second was location and the third was shade.

Contrary to popular belief, solar panels perform better when the atmospheric temperatures are cool and not too hot. Shocking right?? It has been discovered that solar panels absorb energy from the sun’s abundant light, not the sun’s heat and cool temperatures are actually optimal for solar panel efficiency. This is because, as long as sunlight is hitting a solar panel, it will generate electricity and very hot weather may overheat the solar energy system.

So if the panels are situated in the middle of a desert, for example, there will likely be a decrease in performance, but if in the city, this will only be a problem on the hottest days, in the hottest months. To address this challenge, residential solar panels are usually elevated slightly on roof tops to improve air circulation and effectively cool the panels. This may also be why floating solar arrays are becoming popular as water helps to cool the system and slightly improve panel efficiency.

Another factor that affects the output of solar energy systems is the location of the solar panels. Obviously for the system to work efficiently, it needs to have maximal sunlight. So depending on the location and structure of the roof, the panels should be placed in the direction where it gets plenty of sunlight to enable it work well.

The sun sits roughly 93 million miles away at the center of our solar system, as a result, not all places on Earth receive the same amount of sunshine. This makes knowing your home’s relative insolation-the amount of solar radiation received in a given area- crucial in designing a performance-efficient solar array for your home.

The third factor is shade. Shade is detrimental to your solar energy system’s output. Roof obstructions like vent or chimneys or tall trees serve to block the sunlight from hitting the solar panels directly causing them to operate inefficiently. The challenge with shade is that the solar panels are wired internally and together. In individual panels, cells are wired in series to increase the module’s voltage, but they are as efficient as their weakest link. So even if a tiny portion of a module is shaded, the entire array will record a drop in power efficiency.

Armed with this information, Emeka proceeded to cut the tall trees around the roof top where the solar panels were located. This enabled the panels to be maximally exposed to sunlight. He also ensured the atmospheric temperature around the roof top wasn’t too hot and he went ahead to slightly elevate the solar panels to ensure that they were well aerated.

As a result, the solar energy system performed much better than before, powering more devices and powering them more efficiently. The farm recorded optimal productivity and increased their profit margins because they rarely had to rely on the generator to power their operations. 

So the next time your solar energy system does not perform according to the recommended standard, do remember to check for the atmospheric temperature around the panels and ensure they are well aerated, also check the location of the panels to ensure maximal exposure to sunlight and also check for any form of shade that could prevent the sunlight from heating the panels directly.

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