How to Get the Most out of a Solar Energy System

Solar panel brackets

Anyone concerned about either the environment or their utility bills has probably thought about solar power. But how does solar actually work?

How Solar Energy Systems Work

Solar electricity systems consist of several parts working together. The most visible of these — and the most recognizable — is the solar panel. Solar panels are made of photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity. An inverter then takes this electricity, which is DC, or direct current, and converts it into AC, or alternating current, electricity.

This AC electricity is then sent through an electrical panel, which you probably know as a “breaker box,” into your home to power anything that runs on electricity. Since most buildings using solar power are still connected to the utility grid (most solar systems don’t store energy, so they need power from the grid at night), the utility meter actually runs backward when the system is generating more electricity than the building immediately consumes. Solar panels gather the most energy when they are perpendicular to the sun.

Fixed Installation Panels

Because solar panels must be at a certain angle to catch the sun, there are a number of mounting methods for solar panels. The simplest way of installing solar panels is a fixed mounting or one requiring manual adjustment.

Solar panel roof mounting is a popular method, but the downside of solar panel roof mounts is that they can be difficult to adjust, since it would require walking on the roof regularly to get the most efficient angle — and some roof racks can’t be adjusted at all. Most ground mounted solar panels are on A-shaped frames; some have tiltable legs for adjustment, while others are fixed.

Solar Panel Tracking Systems

Solar panels can be made more efficient through the use of solar panel tracking systems. Solar tracking systems automatically follow the sun, adjusting the panel as necessary. This means that the panel stays perpendicular to the sun throughout the day, generating maximum electricity and lowering traditional energy consumption.

Have you worked with solar panels, either at home or as part of your work? What kind of mounting do you recommend?

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