Solar Power Systems

Home Solar Panels Make Sense No Matter Where You Live

by Mary Butler

Solar panels in Seattle? The idea might sound strange, but even residents of the gloomiest climates can still benefit from home solar power. While sunny weather is typically ideal for solar power systems, it's far from crucial. In 2007, half of the world's solar energy was produced under Germany's cloudy skies. No matter where you live in the world, solar panels can work for you.  

How Solar Panels Work
Solar panels, which are sized to accommodate for less sunshine, do generate electricity even when the sun's not out, albeit only 10 to 20 percent of the amount produced under optimum conditions. Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels contain a series of cells that capture sunlight--even if it's filtered through clouds--and turn it into an electrical current. The energy is stored in batteries when a home is not connected to a power grid. However, if your home solar power system is attached to a grid, you can count on power even if you've used more energy than your solar panels have collected. And if your home solar panels produce more energy than you use, you can receive credit for the energy you put back into the grid.

Maximize Your Home Solar Panels
Even if you live in a sunny climate--such as in California where a 4-kilowatt PV system can collect 80 percent of an average homeowner's energy needs--there are tricks to maximizing how much sunlight your solar panels collect.  

  • Mount your home solar panels using sophisticated devices called "trackers," which allow your panels to follow the sun throughout the day. Using trackers can increase panels' output by 50 percent in the summer and 20 percent in the winter.
  • Manually tilt your solar panels each season to capture the best light.
  • Tilt your panels enough to keep snow and rain from collecting on them.

Once you've got your solar power system in place, and you know how your solar panels work, the rest should be a breeze, no matter what the weather's like where you live.

Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association
Washington Post

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