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Where and How to Mount PV Modules Richard Perez and John Drake
©1997 Home Power
Agood solar site is easy to recognize. It is the not–so–good sites that are difficult. What every solar system needs is all the sun it can get. A good solar site sees the sun come up at dawn and sees it go down at sunset. A good solar site faces South. A good site directly sees the Sun all day and is unobstructed by mountain ridges, hills, trees, or buildings.
Surveying for Solar Power
If your site has dawn to dusk direct sunlight, then you’re in and need to survey your solar no further. All you need is an accurate compass to face your PV array directly SOUTH. Be sure to figure in the difference between magnetic North and true North for your location. This difference between compass North and real North is known as “magnetic declination”. For example on the West Coast of the USA, magnetic North is about 19° East of true North. Check a topographic map of your area if you don’t know your local magnetic declination, it’s printed on the map.
While all day sun is what we all want, few sites actually have totally unobstructed access to direct solar radiation. Then a solar site survey becomes a war of attrition. Each obstacle preventing the Sun’s rays from directly falling on the solar face must be located and its effects quantified.
Exact placement of a PV array is critical. Move the array a few feet and the yearly total amount of solar radiation changes. Determining exactly how much solar energy a specific location receives throughout the year is not easy. And to further complicate things, the Sun’s apparent angle keeps changing with the seasons. This means that obstacles that don’t shade the array in the Summer may do so during Winter.
The array needs to be located at that one specific place on a site that receives the most sunshine. The Solar Pathfinder is THE tool for this job. It takes all the guesswork out of predicting how much sunshine the array can receive, at a specific site, throughout the year. The Solar Pathfinder is easy to use and accurate enough to measure changes in array position down to a few feet.
32 Home Power #57 • February / March 1997
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