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Installing Solar in Low Sunlight Environments

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Solar Panel Kit

There is a common misconception that solar is only useful in sunny areas such as California. However, with advances in solar technology those in less sunny areas such as the Northern United States can benefit from arrays with as much efficiency as an installation in California. Solar cell technology has taken large leaps forward and many manufacturers are designing their new solar panel lines with technology to work at peak performance in low irradiance environments. Manufacturers such as Canadian Solar specifically designed the CS6K and CS6U series with the new cells, which have low irradiance performance ratings of 96%, a current industry leading efficiency rating. Solar panel manufacturers are consistently working to enhance cell performance, which benefits solar systems no matter what environment the installation takes place.

Optimizer

In addition to solar cell technology, home and business owners can also improve their array performance at the inverter level with utilizing either optimizers or microinverters. Optimizers can produce up to 25% more energy on a modular level, and provide an overall system efficiency of 99.5%. They can also mitigate all types of module mismatch losses, from manufacturing tolerance to partial shading. As an added bonus, the optimizers work with the connected central inverter and provide next generation maintenance with module-level monitoring. The current leading manufacturer in optimizer technology is SolarEdge, a company that also produces inverters with high efficiency levels and has recently released its HD Wave series the next generation of inverter technology. Enphase and APsystems are the current leading manufacturer of microinverters. Microinverters maximize energy production and minimizes the impact of shading, dust and debris. Like optimizers, microinverters work at a modular level and ensure that energy efficiency loss does not affect the energy production of the entire system.

Enphase Energy Microinverter

In addition to the components in the system, system monitoring can also help solar owners enhance the efficiency of their systems. By quickly troubleshooting panels or areas of your array that are not producing energy at their top efficiency losses can be quickly corrected. These losses can be as simple as a tree branch causing shading issues at certain points of the day, or a loose connection. Oftentimes these efficiency losses can be resolved by the array owner without calling in outside assistance which can be costly. Some installers offer free maintenance up to a number of hours, providing them with the exact area that is producing losses will save them time and give you the freedom to call the team back in at another point if needed.

Finally, one of the most overlooked areas in efficiency loss is simply ensuring that your solar panels are kept clean. Dust and debris that get built up on top of your solar panels can cause the same problems caused by shading. Washing your panels at least twice a year is recommended and will keep your system working at its optimum performance. There are companies that offer panel cleaning services, though you can quickly clean off most debris from your panels by washing them down with a hose on a sunny day, giving the modules time to completely dry.


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