Tweak Solar Panel Angles to Harvest More Energy

May 24, 2017

Strategically adjusting the angles of your solar panels four to five times a year could boost their energy output and help maximize the value of small-scale PV investments, according to new research from Binghamton University-State of New York.

The angles and number of intervals depend on the geographic location of the panels, the researchers explain. Most solar panel owners adjust panels quarterly, regardless of the sun’s position.

“Adjustments do not coincide with seasonal changes,” explains Morteza Sarailoo, a co-author of the paper. “Our new study shows that four adjustments at optimally divided intervals can provide around 25 kW per square meter more power than adjusting the tilt angle four times a year based on the seasons.”

Some smaller PV systems use an automated tracking system that constantly adjusts panel angles, but this feature can drive up the price of an installation process that’s already expensive.
However, adjusting the panels manually eliminates the extra cost and yields better results when the adjustment intervals are optimized for local conditions, the researchers say.

“We were surprised to conclude that such a small number of intervals can result in such high performance,” says co-author Hossein Sangrody.

“The need for only four to five adjustments shows that not only is manual adjustment practically possible, but also economical,” adds co-author Shahrokh Akhlaghi.

The research was based on data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory regarding nine locations in the U.S. The findings were presented at the Power and Energy Conference in Illinois (PECI).