While it’s true that south-facing solar panels produce more energy per day than panels that face other directions, that doesn’t mean your array NEEDS to face South.
Estimates show that east- and west-facing arrays only produce 15-20% less than south-facing arrays. Though that seems like a sizable portion to give up, you may be surprised to learn that the total energy you produce is not always the most important part of your array.
This is because many properties are located in areas without net-metering, and must use their energy immediately or send it back to the grid.
Thus, the most important thing your array can do is meet your energy goals.
Meeting your energy goals could mean aligning production and consumption times, maximizing credits from net-metering, or storing the energy in batteries.
Aligning Production and Consumption Times Can Be Crucial
In certain regions, electricity is more expensive during hours of high demand, like the evening hours when homeowners return from work. Solar installers can help you avoid paying these higher rates by mounting your array in a direction that produces the most energy during the hours that electricity is more costly.
Because we’re in the northern hemisphere, the sun is always in the southern half of the sky. And though this means the sun’s rays always reach us from a southerly angle, we also receive plenty of sunlight from easterly and westerly angles in the morning and afternoon.
Consider the following example of a west-facing array:
A homeowner named Karen uses more electricity in the afternoon and early evening than in the morning. She also pays a higher rate for electricity during PM hours because it’s peak demand for her area.
In Karen’s scenario, a west-facing array is her best option because it produces more energy than a south-facing array during the times that she uses electricity, and when it is most expensive.
Maximizing Production Makes Sense with Battery Storage
One of the scenarios in which a south-facing array is typically the best option is when the system also has battery storage. This allows the property to stockpile as much energy as possible, then use it when needed.
Systems utilizing batteries are able to draw on the stored energy when usage exceeds what the solar array is currently producing. This happens either when energy usage is particularly heavy or when the sun has gone down and solar is unable to produce at all.
Capitalizing On Net-Metering Laws
When your solar array is generating more energy than your home is using, the excess is sent back to the grid. Your meter measures how much you contribute and your utility credits you for that energy through a billing mechanism called net-metering.
Net-metering laws vary by state. Some solar owners are credited at a higher rate during hours of higher demand on the grid, while others receive a flat rate.
You may want your array to face South to maximize total credits generated via net-metering. If your credits vary based on time of day, you may want to produce more energy during that particular time.
Your Installer Will Calculate How You Can Save The Most Money
It’s up to your solar professional to design the array that’s best for you. Not one that simply aims to maximize production, but rather, one that aims to capitalize on the opportunities available to you.
A qualified installer will consider how all of the factors involved in your specific situation can be coordinated so that you save the most money on your electric bills. Sometimes that means harnessing the extra 20% of energy from south-facing panels and other times it means using East or West facing panels.
The direction of your array is just one of many decisions that an experienced and qualified solar installer makes to ensure that your array is a fit for your property.
Reach out if you’d like us to put you in touch with a Renewable Energy Consultant who will be happy to answer your questions as they relate specifically to your property.