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Oops! Study reveals that most of the world's solar panels facing the wrong way

Photo courtesy of Flickr/David Blaikie

Photo courtesy of Flickr/David Blaikie

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    Digital writers

    Tuesday, November 19, 2013, 12:10 PM -

    Solar panels.

    They're the way of the future, a means to cost-effective, sustainable energy.

    There's only one problem.

    A new study by the Pecan Street Research Institute suggests that most of the world's solar panels are facing the wrong way, and aren't functioning at full capacity.

    The study says that west-pointing panels make sense because top demand is during the afternoon and evening, and getting more solar power during those times can reduce overall energy needs.

    Here's more from the institute:

    "Most installers of solar panels, especially the ones for homes, follow conventional wisdom handed down from architects, which holds that in the northern hemisphere, windows and solar panels should face south.

    This makes intuitive sense since it would seem to maximize the amount of sunlight a panel will get as the sun tracks from one horizon to the other. But it isn’t true, at least according to a single study of homes in Austin, Texas. The Pecan Street Research Institute found that homeowners who aimed their panels toward the west, instead of the south, generated 2% more electricity over the course of a day."

    As an added bonus, west-facing panels reduce household electricity usage during peak hours by 65%, compared to south-facing panels, which only reduced usage by 54%.

    The institute suggests that re-orienting solar panels to face west would also shorten the time it takes for them to pay for themselves.

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