One unfortunate downside to the creation of solar energy using photovoltaic panels is simply how many variables there are which can affect the overall output.
This is why alongside designers and installers of solar panels there are even companies offering an O&M service to photovoltaic projects. In essence, this “operation and maintenace” service aims to maximize the output of a solar installation together with routine maintenance and repair – particularly for large scale installations.
But this aside, as a domestic user of solar panels, what factors do you need to be aware of that can lessen the energy you produce and reduce the return on your investment?
The sun’s rays are the magic that produces electricity in combination with solar panels so it should come as no surprise that the brighter and more direct the sunshine your panels receive the more power you’ll be able to produce from them.
This generally means placing them high up (where shadows are less of an issue) and generally in a south facing position if planning permission allows. More high-tech setups may use moving mounts that allow the panels to “tilt” during the day, receiving more of the available light as the sun tracks across the sky.
For similar reasons, most solar panels in the northern hemisphere produce more power in the summer months when the days are longer. Conversely, less power is produced in winter – arguably when it’s needed most.
To help negate this problem, most solar installations either use a battery pack to store excess power for future use, or a hardlined into national power grids so that excess electricity can be sold back when necessary, balancing out the possible cost of buying “top up” electricity when the weather is less suitable for solar generation.
Solar panels work best in the sun, right? And they’re also typically located on the rooves of houses in order to get the most direct sunlight possible. So, it follows, that they must work fine under high temperatures. Or does it.
The fact is that while direct, bright sunshine is important for producing as much electricity as possible, solar panels are generally less efficient in hot surroundings. In other words bright sunshine and cool temperatures are the optimum.
So how to achieve this seemingly impossible feat? The most common strategy is to ensure sufficient air movement is possible when fitting photovoltaic panels so that the air can move around the panels and naturally cool them while they work.
One final major factor worthy of consideration is that of good old-fashioned dirt. Whether that’s bird mess, pollution, building dust or fallen leaves, anything which produces any kind of barrier for the suns rays to enter the solar panel will reduce it’s overall power output.
For this reason regular maintenance is essential to keep your panels in perfect condition and producing the very most power possible.