How is a solar energy system designed?
As part of the solar process, your system will be designed to fit your needs and home. After signing your agreement for your solar energy system installation and warranty coverage. We can begin designing your solar energy system. Designing a system is a complex process that requires planning and plenty of information both from your home and the knowledge of experts. We will give you an idea of how the design process will work, and how it will result in a solar energy system design that is suitable for your home.
Analyzing your property
When designing a solar energy system for your property. Your appointed Project Manager and Solar energy consultant will set up an appointment to analyze your rooftop or ground space. This is to make sure your property is suitable for a solar energy install. Solar panels and their required mounting hardware will require a sturdy base to be installed. If your roof isn’t suitable for solar, chances are you may need re-roofing. Ground-mounted solar will need foundations to be dug and constructed, which will support the mounting hardware of the solar panels.
The analysis will also cover the area on your rooftop that is suitable for solar energy. As the amount of viable space for solar panels will be important to the energy production of your system. By viable space, this means the clear space without potential disruptions such as chimneys, vents, dormers, trees, and required offsets. Other considerations include the pitch of your roof and its position relative to the sun’s path. Solar installations prefer southern-facing roofs. Although east and west-facing rooftops can work as well.
The viable area on your rooftop determines the maximum amount of solar panels that can be installed for your system. A single solar panel could roughly take up about 16 square feet of space with its rectangular shape. Racking systems allow solar panels to be installed in such a way to be space-efficient and in line with each other. They also allow for proper routing of wires into your property.
When analyzing your property for a ground-mounted solar energy system, available space is important as well. This means clear access to sunlight without any disruption from vegetation, such as shrubbery, plants, and trees. The additional examination will need to be done on the soil of your property. This is to make sure it is stable, and clear of large rocks and to check if it is within or near an active seismic zone. Generally, a soil/structural engineer will do this survey on your property.
Analyzing your property will allow your Project Manager and Solar Energy Consultant to account for the size of your property along with any factors that can affect your system’s installation and operation. To configure a system appropriate for your needs, there is another step to take.
Calculating your solar energy system’s size
Your system will need to roughly offset 100% of your electricity usage to net your savings. This means that you will need enough solar panels to cover your energy usage within the viable space on your roof/ground. To calculate and design your solar energy system, we would first need to determine your watt-hour use per month/year. This information is given on your utility bill and helps us calculate the estimated size of your system. The estimated size of your system would be in kW (kilowatts) and would offset your property’s energy needs. With an estimated system size, then we will develop an efficient, stylish solar panel plan for your roof that matches your home and saves you the most money.
One factor that is taken into account is your position relative to the sun, as this will affect the performance of your solar energy system. Different locations in the world vary in their daily sunlight hours and peak sunlight hours. So your system will be designed to best suit your property’s location relative to the sun’s path. This requires special tools to estimate the size of your system, how it will fit on your roof space, and how it will perform over a year. The National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) has a tool called PV Watts that allows you to try these calculations out for yourself. Generally, designing your solar energy system is best left to our solar experts as they will ensure your system will be best configured for your property and needs.
Factors that affect your solar energy system’s design
As mentioned before, different factors will affect the design of your solar energy system. These factors are taken into account when inspecting your property and gathering the necessary information for your system’s design. These factors are important to account for as they will allow our team to design your system to suit real-world conditions and account for any possible issues that can affect the performance of your system.
Your electricity usage
Electricity usage is an important factor to account for when designing your solar energy system. Electricity usage varies throughout the year, which is why we would ask for twelve months of electricity bills. The reason we need this much information is to be able to calculate and determine your system’s size. Your system will aim to offset 100% of your annual usage to net you tangible savings. This also helps us identify power usage trends in your property throughout the year, and design your system to accommodate them.
For example, if your property runs air-conditioning often during the hot summer. Your system will have to generate enough energy for all of your regular power use, plus the added load of the air conditioning. If you have a shed that you use for additional work with its appliances, your solar energy system will need to generate enough power for your shed and its appliances. Any excess energy generated by your system can be installed in a battery bank and/or sent to the grid if your system is grid-tied. You will be able to benefit from net-metering and make the most savings with your solar energy system.
Shading is another important factor to consider when designing a solar energy system. Shade from objects such as trees, large chimneys, or even other buildings will directly affect your solar energy system’s performance. Areas shaded by trees and chimneys aren’t considered when designing your system. Placing solar panels in these areas will result in your system producing less energy. Your system may be designed with separate solar panel strings to avoid power loss from shading. The effects of shading impact string inverter systems the most. Solar energy systems designed with micro-inverters or power optimizers will reduce the effects of shading on their energy production. Although these solutions come at a higher cost for their benefit, they can pay off in the long run. Shading from trees can be dealt with by trimming or even cutting them down entirely. Although this would require you to hire groundskeepers to carry out the task.
These factors will give you an idea of how much is considered when designing your solar energy system. While this is just a general explanation of the process, each solar energy system design and installation has its own set of parameters and conditions. What’s important is that you have a system that suits your needs and can benefit you for the years to come.
Get started with solar energy today
If you are looking to start your transition to solar energy, we are here to help. Our website also has a free online estimate tool that generates a personalized report for you from a simplified questionnaire. That report will contain the potential savings you can net, and the cost of a solar energy system installed on your property. You can also contact us directly via phone at +1 (602) 363-8919 or via email at Scott@elitesolarenergy.org for more information regarding solar energy for your property.