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Optimal Orientation of Solar Modules: South, East, or West for Maximum Profitability?

2023-10-04

Optimal Orientation of Solar Modules: South, East, or West for Maximum Profitability?

In general, the installation of a solar system is always a good idea under certain conditions. As long as the installation location is not completely shaded, the orientation is not entirely unprofitable, or structural constraints do not prevent installation, considering solar installation is advisable.

Impact of Orientation on Energy Generation: A Technical Overview

Several factors come into play here, including the fact that in the summer, with south-south orientation, we waste electricity, but in the winter, we produce so little that we consume it all. This is because, in the summer, we have an excess of solar energy that is absent in the winter due to the short and flat trajectory of the sun. Although, in the east-west variant, we will use much more of our own electricity, the nominal result remains the same. Nominal means that over the entire year, the electricity production in kWh is similar, but in the east-west orientation, it is more evenly distributed, allowing a larger portion of the electricity to be utilized. In most cases, this is the best orientation for solar panels.

In this theoretical example, let's assume there are no individuals in the household between the ages of 10 and 18. In reality, consumption will be about 30% lower because panels produce evenly, and consumption is much more variable (for example, a kettle heats water for some time and not uniformly for an hour, similarly, a washing/dishwasher does not heat water all the time, a microwave/stove the same, etc.). Optimizing the solar module position makes sense to ensure maximum power or performance yield through solar system orientation.

Cost-Benefit Analysis: Profitability of Different Orientations

As described earlier, comparing solar panel orientations is worthwhile to achieve the best results. The best result is always achieved when as much of the produced electricity as possible can be used for self-consumption. The fact that, for example, there is an east or west exposure instead of south is not necessarily a significant problem because, without an energy storage system, the additional production would be wasted anyway.

The calculation is relatively simple. The starting point is the costs for the installation and operation of your solar system. In contrast, there is the expected amount of average electricity production per year. However, this value is theoretical. What matters more is the amount of actual self-consumption and the amount of electricity that needs to be purchased. The level of self-consumption can be improved by installing a battery storage system. Whether this investment is worthwhile needs to be examined. On average for Germany, it can be said that the month with the highest electricity production, June, produces about 10 times as much electricity per kWp as the month with the lowest production, January. However, these are average values that can vary significantly regionally. Professional planning software helps analyze the individually best orientation.

The analysis also includes one's own electricity consumption behavior and the willingness to change certain behaviors and, in a figurative sense, adapt to the sun's course. From a business perspective, it makes sense to turn on electricity-intensive devices when the system produces enough electricity. Washing machines, ceramic and induction stoves, kettles, and similar devices require a relatively large amount of electricity for their use in the short term. Therefore, it would be desirable if this electricity came directly from the roof. Moreover, it is important not to run these devices all at the same time. It may sound a bit complicated, but it is not. One quickly gets used to the processes, and they become second nature, as the saying goes.

Furthermore, one's own usage behavior should be analyzed concerning which individuals are in the building and when. Perhaps individuals work from home, or there is rarely anyone at home during the day. All these factors play a role in the cost-benefit analysis and should be considered.

Adjustment of the Solar System to Regional Weather Conditions

The most productive time for solar systems is, of course, the summer. In winter, however, the efficiency of solar cells decreases, reducing yield not only due to lower sunlight but also because of low temperatures. Additionally, shading from snow can occur. However, due to climate change, the frequency of heavy snowfall is decreasing. As the sun is very low in the winter, the solar system should be checked for shading. If trees cause shading, they could be pruned, for example.

Innovative Mounting Solutions for Optimal Sun Utilization

It is entirely possible to orient solar systems in various directions, for example, to achieve the best results seasonally. In this context, a combination of roof and facade systems can make sense, as the roof system will be particularly productive in the summer months, while the facade system can play to its strengths in winter. This falls into the category of practical tips for solar panel orientation.

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