To get the most power out of a solar photovoltaic system, you have to position the solar panel or solar array so it points or “orientates” directly at the sun. Properly adjusting a static mounted photovoltaic solar system can result in 10% to 40% more power output, which considerably reduces the time it takes to charge batteries.

During summer, the sun is higher in the sky and solar radiation is stronger as it travels a shorter distance through the atmosphere. This requires solar panels to be oriented in a more horizontal position. However, during the winter when the sun is lower, you have to adjust the panels vertically to capture as much solar energy as possible.

Solar setups also need to account for azimuth vs. zenith orientation.

  • Azimuth. Azimuth orientation refers to the compass angle of the sun as it moves from east to west throughout the day. This angle is typically calculated from true south. At solar noon, the azimuth angle is 0°. Azimuth angles to the east of due south are negative (-90°), whereas azimuth angles to the west of due south are positive (+90°). The azimuth angle required for the proper solar panel orientation depends on the time of year and latitude.
  • Zenith. This is the angle of the sun when your point of view is at the horizon or ground level. As the sun moves across the sky, its zenith angle changes. At sunrise and sunset, the elevation of the sun is 0°. When the sun is overhead during the middle of the day, the elevation angle is 90°. However, this angle can change depending on the time of year.

Tracking azimuth and zenith angles throughout the year and plotting them on a solar chart enables you to determine the position of the sun at any time. This makes it easier to identify the proper solar panel orientation.

Solar Panel Orientation

Solar panel orientation refers to the azimuth setting. Most of the energy coming from the sun arrives in a straight line. A solar panel or solar array captures more energy if it faces the sun directly, or perpendicular to the straight line between the position of the panels and the sun.

To maximize solar radiation, angle solar panels towards the terrestrial equator. In the northern hemisphere, this means solar panels should be facing south. Typically, solar panels that face east or west produce approximately 20% less electricity than if they were facing south. So, if your only option is a north-facing roof, consider mounting your solar panels on the ground instead.

It is also important to ensure that no parts of the solar panel or solar array are in the shade, as the system requires 100% solar radiation across the panel to work effectively.

How Tilt Affects Energy Output

Solar panel tilt refers to the zenith setting. With a fixed roof-mounted solar system, the panels should be placed at an angle that is equivalent to the latitude of the installation location. However, in most cases, pitch angles between 30° and 45° provide adequate performance. Depending on the configuration of a solar system, the tilt angle can be adjusted throughout the year to capture as much solar energy as possible.

Ready to Orient Your Business to Solar Power?

No matter where you live or the tilt of your roof, solar panels can result in significant cost savings. Keep in mind that the angle of your roof doesn’t have as much impact on solar panel performance as the direction your solar energy system faces. Optimizing the orientation and tilt of your solar panels ensures enhanced performance and electricity production.

At Nine Fasteners, Inc., we specialize in solar panel mounting systems and components. We also carry components such as wire management clips and solar hardware including bolts, clamps, rails, and screws. You can count on us to provide superior-quality mounting hardware to safeguard your solar power investment.

We’ve been the preferred single-source distributor of fasteners, electromechanical, and computer components since 1984, and we are looking forward to serving you. If you’re ready to get started with solar, request a quote to find out how we can become your comprehensive solar hardware provider and help keep your arrays functioning at their best. For more information, contact us today.

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