Solar Power

    Using solar power to produce electricity is not the same as using solar to produce heat. Solar thermal principles are applied to produce hot fluids or air. Photovoltaic principles are used to produce electricity. A solar panel (PV panel) is made of the natural element, silicon, which becomes charged electrically when subjected to sun light.
     Solar panels are directed at solar south in the northern hemisphere and solar north in the southern hemisphere (these are slightly different than magnetic compass north-south directions) at an angle dictated by the geographic location and latitude of where they are to be installed. Typically, the angle of the solar array is set within a range of between site-latitude-plus 15 degrees and site-latitude-minus 15 degrees, depending on whether a slight winter or summer bias is desirable in the system. Many solar arrays are placed at an angle equal to the site latitude with no bias for seasonal periods.
     This electrical charge is consolidated in the PV panel and directed to the output terminals to produce low voltage (Direct Current) - usually 6 to 24 volts. The most common output is intended for nominal 12 volts, with an effective output usually up to 17 volts. A 12 volt nominal output is the reference voltage, but the operating voltage can be 17 volts or higher much like your car alternator charges your 12 volt battery at well over 12 volts. So there's a difference between the reference voltage and the actual operating voltage.
     The intensity of the Sun's radiation changes with the hour of the day, time of the year and weather conditions. To be able to make calculations in planning a system, the total amount of solar radiation energy is expressed in hours of full sunlight per m², or Peak Sun Hours. This term, Peak Sun Hours, represents the average amount of sun available per day throughout the year.
     It is presumed that at "peak sun", 1000 W/m² of power reaches the surface of the earth. One hour of full sun provides 1000 Wh per m² = 1 kWh/m²  - representing the solar energy received in one hour on a cloudless summer day on a one-square meter surface directed towards the sun. To put this in some other perspective, the United States Department of Energy indicates the amount of solar energy that hits the surface of the earth every +/- hour is greater than the total amount of energy that the entire human population requires in a year. Another perspective is that roughly 100 miles square of solar panels placed in the southwestern U.S. could power the country.
     The daily average of Peak Sun Hours, based on either full year statistics, or average worst month of the year statistics, for example, is used for calculation purposes in the design of the system. To see the average Peak Sun Hours for your area in the United States, you can click the following link which will open a new window - just close it [X] when you're done to return here; U.S.-Solar Insolation Choose the area closest to your location for a good indication of your average Peak Sun Hours.
     For a view of global solar insolation values (peak sun-hours) use this link: Global Peak Sun-hour Maps , then, you can use [back] or [previous] on your browser to return right here if you want to.
     So it can be concluded that the power of a system varies, depending on the intended geographical location. Folks in the northeastern U.S. will need more solar panels in their system to produce the same overall power as those living in Arizona. We can advise you on this if you have any doubts about your area.