Solar panels - the wrong way round?

25th Sep 2012

An academic expert in the field of energy has come up with a rather innovative way of getting more use out of solar panels – turn them around!

Adam McHugh is a lecturer at Murdoch University specialising in energy economics and energy policy, and believes swivelling solar rooftop PV systems to face west rather than north could make a real difference in tackling peak electricity demand problems.

So what's the difference? Well, usually solar panels are installed facing north because they produce more electricity this way.

But according to Adam, who was quoted in, turning them west would allow them to generate more energy during high-demand times of the day, resulting in lower network costs.

"West-facing panels could reduce system capacity by 75 per cent of their rated output, and one 1.5kW system could offset a 1kW air conditioner at peak times," he explained.

"This could be significant, given that some forecasts put the extent of solar PV at 12,000 MW to 18,000 MW between 2020 and 2030."

And he encouraged homeowners to go further and combine this with leaving the house during peaks, so that electricity usage remains within reasonable limits.

His comments came as other industry insiders argued against gross feed-in-tariff systems, with complaints they force solar PV owners to buy back the electricity they produce at a higher rate.

Approximately 40 per cent of retail electricity prices are dictated by networks costs, McHugh commented, meaning new tariff systems could take advantage of this.

A systems-peak pricing would lower household bills in three out of four seasons, but people would be stuck with a hefty bill in the summer.

Why is this a good thing? Adam says it will encourage people to invest in solar PV panels, point them west and get more involved in activities that will reduce their usage during peak times.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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