Turning solar panels east or west might be ideal with net metering, study finds

In the northern hemisphere, south-facing panels usually give the best output but there are drawbacks.

Italian researchers studied the best orientations and tilt angles for solar panels in energy communities. They found that panels oriented east-west generate more shared energy than south-facing panels.

East-west orientation is usually preferred in high latitudes with low solar radiation, as it captures sunlight in the early morning and late afternoon. This setup can also be ideal in tropical locations or on small commercial rooftops.

The east-west configuration provides a steady output throughout the day, reducing the midday power peak and extending production from sunrise to sunset. This even distribution of power is beneficial for grid operators and encourages afternoon self-consumption when people are typically at home.

Additionally, east-west panels avoid shadowing between rows, unlike south-facing panels where the front rows can cast shadows on the back rows. This setup also allows for denser energy production per square meter, which is advantageous on small roofs, increasing energy density by up to 30%.

Another benefit is greater wind resistance. With a 15-degree tilt, east-west panels face less wind pressure compared to south-facing panels, reducing the need for heavy counterweights. This makes installation feasible on less sturdy roofs.

The research, published in Energy Reports, highlights that the tilt angle of solar panels is often overlooked. The study modeled an energy community of 60 users with 150 kW of solar panels. Results showed that while south-facing panels had higher energy yields, east-west panels provided better shared energy values due to better alignment with demand during early mornings and late afternoons.

The researchers noted that their findings might not apply to areas with high solar panel use without net metering schemes. They emphasized the importance of considering various orientations and tilt angles when designing energy communities. Want to learn more about solar panel orientation? Check out our article “Direction and angle of solar panels: How to get the most out of them”.

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