2011-09-12

Co.Exist

Where Can You Put Solar Panels? Almost Anywhere You Want

They work when they're cold, when there is no sun, and facing almost any direction. Perhaps it's time to reconsider a few solar myths?

If you've given any thought to the benefits of solar power, you've probably realized at least two things: You need to live in a sunny climate and, most importantly, you need to have your solar panels facing south. Without these things, the conventional wisdom goes, you're not going to get much benefit from a solar array. A west-facing roof in Seattle? Forget about it. 

But wait. A solar crowdsourcing org, 1 Block Off The Grid, dispels these notions by showing that solar power can work extraordinarily well in climates and conditions that aren't necessarily optimum. The infographic is full of testimonials from people who live in cloudy or cold climates, noting that their solar panels are working perfectly well:

From cloudy San Francisco, where users are saving $2,000 a year on utility bills to snowy Denver, Colorado, where the conditions don't limit solar panels' efficacy, 1BOG is saying that there is little need to curtail your solar plans just because you don't have conditions you think are perfect. You'll still make money after recouping the cost of installation.

The myths about solar panel perfection are actually threefold. First, that you need a south-facing roof. Yes, this is best, as it gets the most sunlight throughout the day, but anything in the 180 degrees between east and west will work just fine, according to 1BOG. (North-facing roofs are still not a great option.) Second, you may think that it's the heat from the sun that makes solar panels work, but it's not—it's light. The panels work just as well in Alaska as in Florida. In fact, the cold can help them perform more efficienctly. And, finally, while clouds obviously hinder how well solar panels can perform, they don't disable them entirely. New panels are so efficient that even the ambient light that gets in past the clouds generates a healthy amount of energy.

Even with government subsidies, solar panels are a large investment, so it's sensible that people would be concerned about installing them without knowing they were going to get a big enough bang for their buck. But the conditions that make them worthwhile may be more forgiving than you think. Here's the full graphic:

 

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