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Tribes make Solar Posted at 01/19/10 - 05:35 AM

New Mexico's Jemez Pueblo tribe is working a deal to use their land for solar energy production. They will be the first Native American tribe to use solar energy as a way to make revenue.  The 3,000 members of the tribe are working to harness the energy from their 30-acre site. They plan on setting up over 14,000 solar panels. A plan is now in the works to sell electricity to outsiders from their four-megawatt plant. The completed plant would be able to power about 600 homes.

Author: Greg

Recent studies suggest that technological progress has reduced payback times to 1.5 to 3.5 years for crystalline silicon PV systems.




Orientation of Solar Panels

It's obvious that solar panels produce most power when they are pointed directly at the sun.
The more direct light a panel receives, the greater its efficiency.
This applies to any type of panel that gets energy from the sun whether it is; photovoltaic or solar hot water.   Panels that track the movement of the sun throughout the day can receive 10% more energy in winter and up to 40% more in summer than fixed panels.

So, any installation needs to provide maximum sunlight onto their surfaces. Ideally, even in winter, they should receive full sun from  about 9am to 3pm.  Remarkably, there is still a wide range of elevations and orientation that will provide useful output.  If your installation placement is limited, it is possible to try passive tracking or even reflectors to enhance light falling on them.  If you are considering a DIY solar project, you need to look carefully at how you orientate your panels.

solar pathfinder

One of the main concerns is working out the correct tilt to allow for differences in latitude and season.  If at all possible, adjustable mountings are preferred to maximise their efficiency.  


  • In the Northern Hemisphere, solar panels should always face true south.
  • In the Southern Hemisphere, they should face north.

The question is, at what angle from horizontal should the panels be tilted? The usual advice suggests panel tilt should be equal to your latitude, plus 15 degrees in winter, or minus 15 degrees in summer.  It turns out that you can do better than this - about 4% better especially in winter.

Optimum Tilt for Winter
The winter season has the least sun, so you need to maximise your capture rate. To calculate the best angle of tilt in the winter, take your latitude, multiply by 0.9, and add 29 degrees. The result is the angle from the horizontal at which the panel should be tilted.

This ensures the panels are angled to get the most advantage of direct light.  It should be noted that most roof angles will allow acceptable panel tilt towards the sun and still provide good average power output over the year, but you are advised to check this.


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