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  • Writer's pictureFlux Renewables

Solar Design Insights

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

Welcome to our solar energy and design blog! In this space, we explore how solar energy is designed and optimized in order to meet the needs of individuals. Whether you are interested in designing a solar system for your home or business, or just want to learn more about solar energy and its potential.

An irradiance map shows the south facing roofs favorable over the east/west
Solar design using Aurora

1. Energy Demand: How much energy do you consume?

In order to create a solar system that meets the unique energy demands of each client, we start by analyzing their electrical bills to determine their average energy consumption over a year. Our goal is to design a system that meets a clients energy demand while also providing enough surplus energy to completely offset their bills. However, in order to ensure approval as a micro-gen supplier, we must strike a balance and not go above 105% surplus energy production. But what exactly is a micro-gen supplier, you ask? Well, that's you if you choose to go solar! With a bi-directional meter, you can sell excess energy back to the grid and receive credits for the energy your system over produces. This credit can offset the cost of the energy drawn from the grid when the system isn't producing enough energy to meet the demand.

2. Available Space: Is your roof optimal for solar?

When it comes to solar panel installation, the available roof space is a crucial factor that determines the size and number of panels that can be installed. The more space available, the more panels can be installed, resulting in greater energy production.

However, it's not just about the roof space. The orientation of the solar panels plays a critical role in the amount of energy that can be generated. The amount of sunlight that reaches the face of the solar panel is referred to as irradiance, and it varies based on the orientation of the panels.

Ideally, solar panels should be installed facing south, as this orientation receives the maximum amount of sunlight throughout the day. In fact, the irradiance of south-facing solar panels can be up to 50% higher than that of east or west-facing panels. This means that a south-facing solar panel system will produce more energy than an east or west-facing system of the same size.

It's important to consider these factors when designing a solar panel system, as they can have a significant impact on the energy production and overall efficiency of the system. With the right orientation and placement, a solar panel system can maximize energy production and provide significant savings on electricity bills.

3. Construction Budget: What is it going to cost you and why?

When considering the cost of your solar system, it is important to keep in mind that there are several factors that can affect the overall price.

First, the pitch of your roof can play a significant role in the installation cost of your solar panels. Roofs with a pitch greater than 8/12 can be more difficult to install solar on, as they require additional care and expertise. As a result, many solar installation companies may add additional costs for this increased difficulty.

Another factor to consider is the number of separate roof faces that your solar array is broken up into. This can affect the cost, as the installer will need to run wire from one array to the other, increasing installation time and labor costs.

The type of inverter and solar panels that you choose can also impact the overall cost. Premium brand names, such as Enphase, may come with additional costs due to their high-quality components, reputation, and expandability.

The location and type of electrical panel can also affect the overall cost of your solar system. If your electrical room is near an exterior wall, this can help keep unexpected costs to a minimum. If your electrical panel needs to be upgraded or relocated to accommodate your solar system, this will add to the cost.

Finally, the type of roofing material that you have can also affect the cost of installation. While asphalt is the most typical roofing material and very easy to install solar on, alternative materials such as cedar, concrete, and rubber may be more difficult and require additional expertise, resulting in higher overall costs.

4. Inverter Selection: How does the energy from the solar panels turn into power you can use?

The inverter is a critical component of a solar system that convers DC energy into useable AC electricity for your home. In order to ensure your inverters are maximizing their efficiency, it is a common trade practice to "oversize" the DC components to about 1.2-1.3 times the capacity of the AC. This is what we refer to as the Inverter Loading Ratio (ILR). This common practice has many benefits.

A power curve during a typical summer day

Maximizing the efficiency of your solar system is crucial for optimizing energy production and saving costs. Oversizing your solar panels is one way to achieve this. By doing so, your system can operate closer to its maximum efficiency, even when faced with external factors that may impact performance.

For instance, while your 400W solar panel is rated at Standard Test Conditions (STC), which assume perfect laboratory conditions, real-world factors such as temperature fluctuations, cloud cover, shading from trees, and soiling from dirt and debris can reduce its efficiency by up to 10%. This means that the maximum operating power you may see in practical conditions could be closer to 360W.

In addition to boosting efficiency, oversizing your solar system can also lower equipment and installation costs by reducing the number of inverters required. This higher Inverter Loading Ratio (ILR) will also result in a quicker system payback and lower overall costs.

However, it's important to note that the size of your solar installation is restricted by the capacity of your electrical panel's busbar. Canadian Electrical Code allows a formula to determine the amount of solar that can be added based on the electrical panel's busbar capacity and main breaker size. For example, a 100A electrical panel with a 100A busbar can accommodate up to 25A of solar, while a 200A electrical panel with a 225A busbar can handle up to 81.25A of solar.

On the hottest days of summer, when the sun is at its strongest, you may witness the rare occurrence of inverter clipping. This occurs when the solar panels produce more DC power than the inverter can convert to AC power, causing some of the energy to go to waste. However, with an ILR ratio of 1.2-1.3, the yearly loss due to inverter clipping will be less than 1%. So, while the higher ILR ratio may result in some lost energy, it can also save you a significant amount of money, making it a wise cost-effective choice.

5. Forward Thinking: Do you have the ability to easily expand in the future?

When designing a solar system for your home, it's crucial to think beyond your current energy needs and consider your future requirements as well. This is where future expandability comes into play. The brand of inverter used in a solar system can have a significant impact on its expandability. Choosing a reputable and reliable brand can ensure that the components of the system will be compatible with future upgrades or expansions. It is important to note that not all brands of inverters are easily expandable.

One aspect to consider is whether you want to install batteries or have a generator backup in the future. Adding a battery storage system to your solar setup can help you store excess energy generated during the day and use it during the night or during power outages. Adding a generator backup can ensure you have power even in the most difficult of circumstances. This can help you achieve greater energy independence and reduce your reliance on the grid.

In Summary

As the world becomes increasingly conscious of the need for sustainable energy, designing a solar system has become a complex and fascinating process. Each project presents its own unique challenges, as we strive to meet our clients energy needs while maximizing efficiency and minimizing costs.

By analyzing factors such as energy demand, available space, construction budget, inverter selection, and future goals, we can design a solar system that is tailored to each clients specific needs.

The use of advanced technology and innovative design techniques allows us to push the boundaries of what is possible and create solar systems which are both highly effective and visually stunning.

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