When you hear about solar in the news, it’s most likely about a large desert solar system that produces enough energy to power a specific number of homes, or a rooftop system in North Carolina or New York that offsets a certain fraction of a business’ energy consumption. By using complex equations, data, and simulation tools, we can determine how many homes that desert system will power, or offset “x” amount of energy for a business.These calculations are part of the energy simulation process. Energy simulation tools are built to accurately predict how much energy a particular solar system will produce in a given year. There are several factors that can impact how much energy a solar array can produce, but they fall into two main categories.
One key factor that will determine how much energy a system can produce is its location. Along with the distance to the equator, weather plays a significant role in determining how much solar energy can be captured in a particular area. The map below depicts how the rainy Pacific Northwest receives the least amount of solar exposure in the year, while arid Southern California and Arizona receive the most per year. Most of the US is typically in between these two extremes.Other weather trends can also play a role. For example, the Northeast has abundant rainfall that naturally cleans panels. However, significant snowfall will reduce the amount of energy captured. California’s sunny skies allows panels to capture more energy, but the energy conversion process is slightly less efficient partly because dust is more likely to cover the panels.
Location plays a large role in determining how much energy output an array can receive, but there is plenty of room for system optimization in the design:
Energy simulation tools are very precise, but are often cost-prohibitive for the average consumer. Fortunately, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has a free software called PVWatts that allows anyone to estimate their own simulations. The standard values are based on decades of research from top-level scientists.This brief overview outlines some of the ways that location and design can impact how much solar photovoltaic energy a system can produce, but there are many other factors. PowerFlex has years of experience designing optimal systems for commercial and industrial clients across the country, and we can help you design the best solution for your needs.If you have any questions about the energy simulation process, please feel free to call us at 646-807-4600 or email us at email@example.com.