As solar technology finds more and more takers, the research activity in the field also acquires new dimensions. The urge among the people to try out solar energy based appliances, namely solar panels and solar cookers also necessitates the knowledge dissemination about these products. Solar panels, for instance, need to be used particularly intelligently to extract a viable output from them. Nothing can be a bigger setback to the worldwide revolution of ‘green technology’ than the public distrust about the utility of the products running on clean energy.
The efficiency of a solar panel is a function of many parameters, such as the intensity of sunlight, the duration of peak sunlight hours, the physical structure of the neighboring areas, and the orientation of the panel with respect to the Sun. For the panel to be able to churn out the desired amount of electric fuel, the sunlight diet it receives must be quantitative, as well as properly oriented. Sunlight hitting the panels at something close to 90 degrees is ideal. There is a very simple rule. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, point your panels towards the south, and if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, your solar panels must be pointing towards the north.
It is very important to be aware of a very basic concept of the south direction. There may be different interpretations as regards magnetic south, or true south. The magnetic south is the direction pointed to by a compass, which is the direction towards the South Pole of the geomagnetic field of the earth. As the molten metal inside the earth isn’t stationary, the magnetic south keeps on shifting, though by a very small degree. On the other hand, the true south is a fixed entity, and is the point on earth where its axis of rotation would emerge out of Antarctica, if it were a tangible entity.
For the solar panels to perform according to its potential, it must be facing the true south direction. Finding the true south might just be a startling proposition for new solar panel owners. However, there is no reason for concern. What we are supposed to do in order to point our panels south is to get the precise angle. As explained above, the magnetic compass doesn’t give the reading we actually wish for. There is a ‘magnetic declination’ correction that has to be included with the compass reading in order to get the precise south direction. One can easily browse on the World Wide Web for the magnetic declination of a geographical area. The reading of the magnetic declination is added to the ‘south’ reading of the magnetic compass, making increments when the declination is positive, and decreasing the angle by the same amount if the declination is negative.
High end solar panels come with ‘trackers’ which track the path of the sun all day long and keep on adjusting the position of the panels so that an optimum amount of sunlight falls upon them. It is safe to conclude that the orientation towards the sun affects the performance of solar panels and collectors, and by making them face south, we ensure that these appliances work as desired.
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