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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Future Proof Your Solar Power System

You do need to consider the future when you build your own solar power system. The system will have a lifetime of 20 years plus, so you need to ensure – as far as possible – that the system will be effective for that length of time.

When scanning the horizon, take into account that trees and hedges will grow during the lifetime of the system. A small spruce in a nearby garden now could grow into a monster in the space of a few years, and if that is a risk it is best to know about that now rather than have a nasty surprise a few years down the line.

See if there are any applications for building work to be carried out and try to assess the likelihood of future building work that could have an impact on shading.

It is also worth finding out if fog or heavy mist is a problem at certain times of the year. If the site has regular problems with heavy mist, the efficiency of your solar array will be compromised.

What if there are obstructions?

If there are obstructions, you need to ascertain at what point during the day the obstruction occur.

Anything due south is a major problem as this will be the position of the sun when the intensity of the sunlight is at its highest. Core power generation occurs between 9am and 3pm. If you have shading either before 9am or after 3pm, you’ll lose around 20% of your capability or 40% of your capability if you have shading both before 9am and after 3pm.

During the winter, the difference is not so great – if you have shading before 9am or after 3pm during the winter, you’ll probably be losing only around 10% of your generating capabilities during this time.

If you have shading during your core power generation times, you need to give serious thought as to whether you should continue with a solar implementation: the performance of your solar system will be severely compromised. You may be better off investigating other energy options such as wind power or fuel cells, either instead of using solar or in combination with a smaller solar electric system.

Alternatively, if obstructions occur for part of the day - such as during the morning or during the afternoon, you can consider increasing the number of solar panels you purchase and angling them away from the obstruction to increase their collection of sunlight during the unobstructed parts of the day.

The final option if there are obstructions is to use a solar tracker in order to improve the efficiency of your DIY solar panel throughout the day.

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