By Brandi Casey, director of operations at Solaris Technology Industry
Solar energy has quickly developed over the last few years, and growing technologies have made going solar more affordable for more homeowners. As customers from a variety of geographical areas make the move to solar it is important to consider their individual energy potential. Areas with the highest energy bills often have the lowest irradiance ratings; however, this doesn’t mean everyone can’t enjoy efficient solar systems with high returns on investment. It’s important to use the right components.
Low irradiance areas should be treated in the same manner as roofs with high shade. Homeowners in these situations are more likely to benefit from microinverter systems over ones with a string inverters. Not only do microinverters have a longer expected lifetime than standard string inverters, their installation process makes it easier to expand the system in the future and allows for easy monitoring. An in-depth look into the operation of the system through monitoring makes troubleshooting easier and also provides insight into how to improve the overall output of the system.
If microinverters are not possible or the customer would prefer a string inverter, optimizers can perform some of the same key functions as microinverters. Optimizers ensure that each panel works at its highest capacity while providing in-depth system monitoring. Systems should be sized according to the maximum output of the solar panels so not to overload the inverter.
The inverter is not the only component to think about in a low irradiance environment—panels are important too. Many solar panels today include irradiance specifications and use enhanced technology to perform in low irradiance better than ever before. For example, Canadian Solar has recently released a series specifically for areas with low irradiance and have an energy output around 11% higher than many similar modules.
The final component to consider is the racking, which should be optimized for the specific site. Solar tracking technology may be one of the best options for low irradiance areas as they expose solar panels to as much sunlight as possible. If tracking is not an option, panels should be positioned at the most ideal angle to expose the system to as much sun as possible.
The irradiance rating of the solar customer’s geographic area along with the number of peak sun hours can be found online. Knowledge of the installation environment is key to installing a high-yield energy system at any jobsite. Taking the extra time to address each installation’s individual needs will ensure a cleaner brighter future, and ongoing profitable business.